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German Village, land trust supporters clash at appeals hearing
 tcooper  / 

Residents of the German Village neighborhood made their case during a public hearing Thursday against the St. Simons Land Trust’s plans to use Village Drive as the sole means of access part of its planned new park.

Over the last several years, the land trust raised money to purchase around 258 acres of Musgrove Plantation, an undeveloped property on the north end of St. Simons Island, in three phases from the Brenn Foundation.

The entire 258 acres is under a conservation easement managed by the Department of Natural Resources, meaning any development of the property is subject to very strict restrictions, said David Pope, land trust executive director.

Most of the property will remain untouched. All the land trust has planned currently is a parking area for 15 vehicles off Lawrence Road and five parking spots and a small trailhead shelter — classified by Glynn County’s community development department as storage shed at the end of Village Drive, the only entrance and exit from the German Village neighborhood.

It was Community Development Director Pamela Thompson’s decision to approve the trailhead and five parking spaces, four of which are unpaved, that German Village residents targeted. The Village Bluff Homeowners Association appealed the decision and stated their issues with the land trust’s plan at Thursday’s Board of Appeals meeting.

German Village residents don’t have a problem with the parking spaces or the trailhead itself, but the fact that the only way to access them is through their neighborhood.

“We do not object to what is being done in that area. Many people back the land trust and what they do,” said Melinda Bruley White, an attorney representing the neighborhood. “... There are a lot of public roads that run through neighborhoods and would make nice little stropping points. On St. Simons I can think of Rivera Drive, the entrance to Wymberly, the entrance to Devonwood.”

Using Village Drive as the only means to access the marsh-front portion of the property would increase traffic through the neighborhood, making reducing safety for residents, White said. Planned repairs to the boat ramp and fishing piers with only exacerbate the situation, she claimed.

To avoid upsetting the peaceful nature of these neighborhoods, White said the county needs to start a process to making sure safety concerns and impacts to property values are addressed.

White said they wanted the land trust to take a site plan for the whole park to the Islands Planning Commission instead of building the park up “piecemeal” over time.

Village Bluff Homeowners Association president Anne Ditmer followed White, saying the reason why the land trust wants to use Village Drive is because it doesn’t believe it can access that portion of the property any other way.

There’s very little room to a run a road, and the conservation easement over the property doesn’t allow for the construction of a new road, Pope would explain later in the meeting.

“The land trust and DNR simply agreed to a purchase with too many self-imposed hardships. We should not be punished because of the land trust’s inability negotiate access to the property they bought for $11 million,” Ditmer said.

Several others, most of which were German Village residents, followed Ditmer, including state Rep. Jeff Jones, R-St. Simons Island.

While not a German Village resident, Jones said he offered to help the land trust find an alternative but that it seemed bent on using Village Drive.

He said he offered to use his position to help push a request to run a new road through the conservation easement through the DNR and had managed to find a developer to clear a new dirt road from Lawrence Road to the portion of the property at the end of Village Drive.

“All sorts of statements were made, all sorts of facts were cited, many of which were just wrong,” Pope said.

It would be wrong to say the land trust agreed to buy the property without securing access to the marsh-front, Pope said. The land trust hadn’t negotiated for land for a road or include a stipulation in the conservation easement allowing for a new road because it could use Village Drive, a public road.

Even if the conservation easement didn’t prohibit the land trust from creating a new road, Pope said their options were to run a road through the Brenn Foundation’s property, which they had agreed not to do, run a road through land owned by the First African Baptist Church and used as a cemetery, which they could not do, or to run a road through wetlands, which they very likely could not do. The DNR would not be inclined to allow them to run a road through wetlands when they could use Village Drive, he said.

He wasn’t around when the deal was struck, Pope said, and he told German Village residents so. He also maintained that he didn’t have any authority to change the terms of the conservation easement.

“My honesty was not well-received,” Pope said.

Further, he said the Village Bluff Homeowners Association did not speak for all neighborhood residents, a claim substantiated when Dave Edenfield stood to speak against the appeal.

While he didn’t dismiss the neighborhood residents’ concerns, Jonathan Roberts, with Roberts Civil Engineering, said the county really had no other option but to approve the plans for the parking spaces and shelter, which were designed by his firm.

Looking at the county’s ordinances, the plans were in-line and above board.

In fact, the plans they took to the county didn’t really need county approval at all, Roberts said.

The work could have been done without telling anyone, but he said he advocated to putting the project into the public record.

J.T. Johnson, an attorney representing the land trust, pointed out the appeal didn’t have anything to do with the road in any case. The board really could only rule on the parking spaces and trailhead shelter, which were in compliance with county ordinance.

“There is no basis in law for the appeal whatsoever, and the appeal must fail,” Johnson said.

Thompson backed up his claim. When board Chairman Walter Rafolski asked her what would happen if they reversed her decision, she said her only option would be to approve it again.

Recently appointed board member A.J. Berry sympathized with the German Village residents, but didn’t know exactly what the board could do about it. He asked County Attorney Aaron Mumford if they could ask the Islands Planning Commission to make a decision on the matter, as the German Village residents wanted them to do.

Mumford said the board didn’t have the authority to push a decision onto the IPC. If they voted to reverse Thompson’s opinion, she would likely make the same decision. Alternatively, they could modify her decision or defer it to take more time to think about it.

Ultimately, the board voted 4-0 to defer the item to its next regular meeting, June 13, and to meet an hour earlier than usual at 9 a.m. to get a head start. Mumford said the board will not have to hold a public hearing a second time.

Board member Eugene Williams said what he heard from both sides of the aisle didn’t quite line up with what he was hearing from Glynn County staff. For one, he noted the discrepancy between the trailhead shelter that was referred to as both a gazebo and a storage shed.

Betty Keller, a fellow board member, also wanted more time to look into the issue.

The board also voted to approve variances allowing a pool to be built in the Yacht Club neighborhood closer to the marsh than its planned development text allowed and a reduction in the necessary parking spaces for The Chapel off Cyprus Mill Road in Brunswick.

GICCA students transforming shipping containers to home for veterans
 lmcdonald  / 

Golden Isles College and Career Academy students spend most of their class days inside the school learning skills they hope to someday apply in a real world setting.

A handful of advanced students in the construction and welding programs, though, have had the chance this school year to make use of the skills they’ve learned through a project that will benefit community members for years to come.

GICCA partnered with Rebuilding Together of Glynn County Georgia, Inc., an organization that focuses on helping low-income seniors, veterans and the disabled have affordable housing, to build a home for veterans in need of housing. To make that project a little more challenging, the two-bedroom home is being constructed inside two 40-foot shipping containers.

“It’s had a lot of challenges because it’s not typical construction in a lot of ways,” said Jeff Holland, the construction instructor at GICCA.

The house will include two bedrooms, one bathroom, a kitchen and a living area.

“We got a seed grant through Sears,” said Allen Booker, executive director of the local Rebuilding Together organization. “It’s not enough to complete the project, so I was looking for resources that would help us stretch our grant to get it done. The labor cost is going to be the biggest cost.”

Booker reached out to Rick Townsend, CEO of the Career Academy, who coordinated with GICCA’s instructors and agreed to partner with Booker on the project.

“What we’re expecting them to do is put in the doors and windows and the flooring for us,” Booker said. “And then we’ll move it to a lot that was donated to us and the city.”

The work is expected to be completed this fall. The construction and welding students are working almost daily on the project, but they will soon be out on their summer break. Booker said he’s hoping that local welders can volunteer to help work on the home this summer and move the work along.

“We’re reaching out to different resources in the community to get help,” he said.

Once the shipping containers are moved to the lot in Brunswick, the kitchen and bathrooms will be installed and a roof will be built.

Coastal Georgia Area Community Action Authority offers a rapid rehousing program, and veterans who are in need of shelter will be able to work with the agency to be placed in the renovated home once it’s completed.

The project has provided GICCA’s students with more than a learning opportunity, Holland said. They also have had a chance to give back to their community.

“I felt like it’s a good community service that we could get involved with,” Holland said. “Plus, it gives my students good skills training in carpentry and framing and that kind of stuff.”

Michael Benson, the welding instructor at GICCA, said his students received experience they’d never have in class.

“This is more like real world, outside the school atmosphere,” he said. “They’ve got to experience the atmosphere, working outside, which a true welder does … They picked up the perspective of applying a blueprint to reality.”

Police seeking traveling companion of woman found in Darien river

The female traveling companion of a Florida woman whose body was found floating in the Darien River on April 3 has been charged with concealing her death, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said.

An investigation revealed that Sammeka Barriner, 29, and Shon May-Stone were driving north on Interstate 95 when they stopped at an unknown area at the Darien exit, said Stacy Carson, special agent in charge of the GBI’s Kingsland office.

While they were stopped, May-Stone believed that Barriner had died and left her there without seeking any medical assistance, Carson said.

May-Stone, who is accused of leaving with Barriner’s possessions, is charged with a single count of concealing the death of another, Carson said.

The statute cited in the warrant applies when anyone who, through the concealing of a death, hinders the discovery of whether a person was unlawfully killed.

The charge is a felony punishable by one to 10 years in prison, a fine of $1,000 to $10,000 or both.

May-Stone has not been apprehended, but law enforcement agencies are actively looking for her, Carson said.

Carson declined to say how Barriner is believed to have ended up in the river and whether homicide has been ruled out in her death.

“We’re still waiting for some things to come back,’’ including the final autopsy report and the results of toxicology tests, she said.

Barriner was a resident of Broward County and May-Stone was living there at the time the women traveled into Georgia, Carson said. At the time she was identified, Barriner had been reported missing from her home in West Park.

A fisherman found Barriner’s body floating in the Darien River near the Boone Seafood docks about 6 p.m. April 3. Darien Police Chief Donnie Howard asked for the GBI’s assistance in identifying Barriner’s body and investigating her death.

FLETC student arrested for DUI
 lhobbs  / 

Police allege a student who was leaving the Florida Law Enforcement Training Center crashed her SUV late Wednesday night at the facility’s gate on Chapel Crossing Road, then ran motorists off of Old Jesup Road while driving to her motel with one tire missing on the vehicle, according to a report.

Glynn County Police arrested Clare Marie Busch, 31, of New Orleans, and charged her with DUI and leaving the scene of an accident. She was booked into the Glynn County Detention Center before midnight Wednesday and released Thursday morning on a total of $1,967, according to jail records.

Police arrested her four miles away from FLETC at the Jameson Inn, 230 Warren Mason Blvd. off U.S. Highway 341 near the interstate, the police report said. Police first received a call at 10:22 p.m., alleging the driver of an SUV had driven away after being involved in a crash at the main gate to FLETC at 1131 Chapel Crossing Road, the police report said. Police said “the vehicle turned onto Chapel Crossing Road and left the scene,” the report said.

Moments later, police received a call “about a silver SUV traveling down Chapel Crossing Road that was missing a tire,” the report said. Still later, police received two reports that the same SUV had turned “onto Old Jesup Road and run several people off the road,” the report said.

The last person to call police about Busch’s alleged driving proceeded to follow the SUV to the Jameson Inn, notifying police of her whereabouts. Police allegedly found Busch inside the SUV, which was in the Jameson Inn parking lot, missing a tire, the report said. The officer alleged Busch smelled of alcohol and “her eyes were glassy and her speech was slurred,” the report said.

Bush allegedly told the officer she had classes Wednesday at FLETC until 5 p.m. and later had two drinks at the facility’s on-campus pub, the report said. She declined to submit to field sobriety tests, the report said. Police took Busch to Southeast Georgia Health System’s Brunswick hospital for medical clearance before taking her to the county jail, the report said.

A FLETC spokeswoman said the crash caused little damage to the gate area.

Grand jury indicts number of people for violent crimes
 wwolfe  / 

A Glynn County grand jury issued more than a half-dozen indictments Wednesday, alleging many of the accused committed violent crimes.

Lewis Eugene Powers Jr. stands accused of several different offenses — he was indicted on three counts of entering an automobile, three counts of possession of a firearm during a felony, and one count each of first-degree burglary, second-degree burglary, home invasion, aggravated assault, armed robbery, possession of a firearm by a felon and theft by taking.

On Aug. 28, 2018, he allegedly entered a black 2010 Dodge Journey, a white 2004 Toyota Camry and a gray 2015 Hyundai Veloster with intent to commit a theft.

On Sept. 3, 2018, he allegedly burgled a residence in the 200 block of Snapper Trail, possessed a handgun while illegally entering an occupied residence in the 300 block of Terrapin Trail, pointed the gun at the resident of the Terrapin Trail residence and took a Kia Soul from that same residence.

Powers also allegedly broke into Sally’s Cop Shop on Chapel Crossing Road on Sept. 4, 2018.

For actions allegedly committed June 11, 2018, Keni Ryan Riley was indicted for aggravated assault in violation of the state Family Violence Act, criminal trespass, false imprisonment, terroristic threats and two counts of third-degree cruelty to children. Riley’s accused of using a small ax to destroy a table belonging to their spouse, holding the ax to their spouse’s face, locked their spouse in a bedroom, made a death threat and did all this in the view of two people younger than 18 years old.

Gurkan Sahin, Feb. 9, allegedly sexually assaulted a woman and in the process allegedly committed the crimes of rape, aggravated sodomy, sexual battery, aggravated sexual battery and false imprisonment.

On Nov. 18, 2018, Christopher Erving allegedly got into an altercation with another man and in doing so lacerated his scalp, hit him in the back of the head, hit him with an unknown object “likely to result in serious bodily injury,” fractured the bones around the other man’s left eye and punched him repeatedly in the face.

Those alleged actions resulted in three counts of aggravated assault and two counts of aggravated battery.

After being stopped by police Feb. 22 in the area of West 9th Street, Jonathan Kicklighter allegedly kicked and punched one Glynn County Police officer, kicked two other officers and had an open alcoholic beverage in his truck. Kicklighter was indicted for driving under the influence, open container and three counts of obstruction of an officer.

On March 9, Dominique Lavon Norman allegedly strangled and intended to steal cash from a woman — he was indicted for aggravated assault, robbery by force and battery.