Land Trust vs German Village

Parking reserved for the Guale Preserve Park at the end of Village Drive in the German Village subdivision on St. Simons is currently off limits to the public.

The Old Glynn County Courthouse was packed to the brim Thursday evening as the Glynn County Board of Commissioners heard public comments before deciding the fate of Village Drive as it relates to the dispute between German Village residents and the St. Simons Land Trust over use of the road to access the Land Trust’s Guale Preserve.

The county commission ultimately voted 5-2 in favor of the appeal by the Community Development Department, reversing a Board of Appeals decision restricting the use of Village Drive. Commissioners Bob Coleman and David O’Quinn voted against it.

The motion was proposed by Commissioner Peter Murphy around 8:30 p.m. after a long and somewhat contentious public hearing on the matter.

Glynn County Planning Manager Stefanie Leif began the discussion with a brief presentation of the timeline of community development’s involvement with Guale Preserve, as well as its appeal against the Board of Appeals’ decision.

Commissioner Bob Coleman pressed Leif on Village Drive’s capacity for the volume of traffic that might accompany a popular boat launch destination like Guale Preserve and whether or not the construction there would be limited to five parking spaces and a storage shed as alloted in initial permit.

“If you could go down and cut out five parking spaces and put a number up, how fast could you do five more, and five more,” Coleman said.

Leif assured the commission that any plans for additional parking spaces would generate a new review by the county.

This issue was also addressed during the land trust’s public comment period by the chair of their stewardship committee Susan Shipman, who said that the conservation easement over the area limits the number of spaces that can be constructed.

“We couldn’t add more spaces even if we wanted to,” Shipman said.

Melinda Bruley White, an attorney representing the Village Bluff Property Association, ceded the first five minutes of the German Village supporters’ public comment period to Board of Appeals Chairman Walter Rafolski.

Since community development challenges the authority of the board on regulating the use of public roads in the appeal, Rafolski wanted to share his perspective.

He explained that the board’s decision to prohibit the use of Village Drive was in line with a county zoning ordinance regarding R-6 residential zones such as German Village that gives the board the authority to “discourage any encroachment by commercial, industrial, high density residential, or other uses capable of adversely affecting the single-family residential character of the district.”

White asked the commissioners to name another example of a department within Glynn County appealing a unanimous decision of an appointed board.

Obviously disappointed by the outcome of the hearing, White told The News that she and her clients will be discussing plans to bring this matter to superior court in the future.

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