New guidelines are now in effect for a major thoroughfare in Brunswick.
City commissioners on Wednesday voted to adopt the Glynn Avenue Design Framework, which will affect future development along U.S. Highway 17, also called Glynn Avenue, from the Sidney Lanier Bridge to Golden Isles Parkway.
Commissioners Vincent Williams, North Ward, Julie Martin, South Ward, and Felicia Harris, South Ward, voted in favor of the new rules. Commissioner Johnny Cason, North Ward, and Mayor Cornell Harvey voted against the framework.
The 61-page rulebook is aimed at sprucing up the corridor and creating new regulations that affect everything from streets to buildings to parking lots and lighting. It is the first major ordinance change for the area since temporary rules were set in place more than a decade ago.
The plan was developed by city planning officials in conjunction with the Savannah-based planning firm Symbioscity. It places new conventions on building architecture, size and height, as well as the amount of space a building can take up on the lot. Much of the framework was taken from public input during a series of listening sessions held before the planning process began.
Bren Daiss, the city’s planning and codes director, has previously said the framework is aimed at keeping future Glynn Avenue developments to a “human scale” and preserving the marsh views for the public. Because the framework is an overlay district, it does not change the underlying zoning for the area.
Several people came to Wednesday’s commission meeting to speak about the plan before its vote.
John Dow, owner of the Golden Isles Inn property on Glynn Avenue south of Golden Isles Parkway, spoke in opposition to the measure.
“If you adopt this, you will be impeding the ability of us (landowners) to redevelop it,” he said. “... The greatest thing I have when I present my property (to developers) is that it’s in the city, and not the county. The city is eager to develop. This (plan) will strangle that.”
Another landowner, Doug Adams, who with his brother Ron Adams owns the former Dixie O’Brien paint factory at 2700 Glynn Ave., said he was slightly confused by Wednesday’s vote and was still waiting to see what the city actually adopted.
“I think there certainly was some compromise,” Adams said Thursday by phone. “My family and I were not totally against the plan. We think planning is beneficial, but we thought the original was overly restrictive. ... It appears some restrictions may have been changed in some way, but we didn’t see it in writing. We’ll still need to see the final version.”
One of the sticking points for property owners was a 45-foot setback from the marsh. Under Georgia law, property owners cannot develop land within 25 feet of the marsh, unless they obtain a permit from the state.
The Glynn Avenue Design Framework takes that a step further and adds 20 additional feet. Officials have said this will preserve marsh views and could one day even lead to a board-walk or multi-use path type of public infrastructure.
Opponents think that goes too far and violates their property rights.
City officials met with property owners and other stakeholders several times to try and come up with compromise solutions. The framework was originally presented to commissioners in April and was deferred several times after that before finally coming to a vote Wednesday.
In the end, commissioners were given a set of options from which to choose. After failing to adopt “Option B,” commissioners voted to affirm “Option C,” which increased the amount of lot coverage and also had other modifications to building standards.
“I think that this longer process was useful,” said Daiss, the planning director. “And we got a lot of additional feedback on top of the public outreach we did the first year, so I’m glad the commission found a version they could stand behind and I’m excited to start working with property owners and developers to see improvement along Glynn Avenue.”
The mayor indicated Wednesday he was pleased with the outcome.
“I wish it (the process) could have been a lot smoother,” Harvey said. “I believe this guideline is good for us. It may appear to be restrictive when first presented, but however, that’s a matter of individuals’ views. Since that time, we have made it less restrictive.”