The morning after being escorted from an Islands Planning Commission meeting in handcuffs by a Glynn County Police officer, Julian Smith said he was in good cheer, and didn’t mind being escorted out “as horrified citizens looked on,” he said.
Smith did not sit down late Tuesday night when told to do so by IPC chairman Patrick Duncan. The two butted heads during a public hearing period on a special use permit for an event venue on the north end of St. Simons Island.
The IPC’s meeting procedures state that during public hearings, citizens are each allotted five minutes to speak, and should stick to “relevant information regarding (their) position and should avoid being repetitious.”
At the IPC’s meeting, held in St. William Catholic Church, Duncan said he would be interrupting people during their allotted public hearing time if they strayed too far from the matter at hand.
Duncan stopped Smith at two and a half minutes, adding that his watch said three minutes had passed. Smith said after the meeting that he timed himself with a digital timer, which he used to dispute Duncan’s claim that his time was up.
After some back and forth, Smith resumed speaking, but after another minute Duncan told Smith “you’re done,” before calling a Glynn County Police officer to remove him from the meeting room.
Smith could be heard telling the officer to slow down. He later explained he has a bad rotator cuff, and having his hands cuffed behind him was causing him discomfort. He said Wednesday he was released by the officer who escorted him out, and left the church property following a brief conversation.
Smith said after the meeting that Duncan went too far, “happily violating the first amendment rights of citizens.”
At an IPC work session earlier this month, Duncan said he would be more strict on keeping the public on subject during public hearings.
Earlier in the meeting, Duncan said he didn’t want the public to speak about the site plan for the event venue, which accompanied the special use permit application. He said the site plan was not the matter on which the IPC was being asked to make a recommendation.
The Islands Planning Commission ultimately recommended the county commission deny the special use permit 4-3, Duncan and IPC members Desiree Watson and Joel Willis voting against the recommendation.
A motion to pass with four conditions failed 3-4, IPC members Carla Cate, Ed Meadows, Odessa Rooks and Stan Humphries voting against it. Those conditions were that no fireworks be used at the venue, that it not allow overnight parking, that events must have a traffic control officer if the Glynn County Police Department recommends one and that events at the venue must end by 11 p.m. every night.
Duncan could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Called Forbes Farm, the land features around 500 feet of marsh front property. The applicant proposed to develop the land to include a two-lane asphalt drive connecting three brick roundabouts.
An event barn, lawn and space for a stage are shown in the plans at the marsh’s edge. Two grass parking lots were proposed containing 116 spaces, and two horse paddocks were depicted as flanking the main entryway.
An event barn of roughly 8,000 square feet was also proposed, featuring a main reception area, large back porch, bar, lounges, restrooms and storage rooms, along with a pavilion connected via breezeway.
Issues with the permit, raised by both members of the public and commission, ranged from concerns about increased traffic, disturbance of nearby neighborhoods and use of green space as overflow parking, among others.
In other business, the IPC approved remodeling plans for St. William Catholic Church, approved new signs in the island historical preservation district and failed to take action in a tie vote on an appeal of a county staff decision.
The next IPC meeting will take place at 6 p.m. April 17 in a location to be decided. The IPC will need to meet somewhere else while St. William is undergoing remodeling, but county staff were not prepared to announce the new meeting place.