A Glynn County Superior Court judge dismissed a lawsuit over amendments to the county’s zoning ordinance and subdivision regulations.
The lawsuit goes back to June 2018, when the Glynn County Commission voted to approve the amendments which, among other things, took away the authority of the Mainland and Islands planning commission to rule on preliminary plats, instead transferring that responsibility to the staff of the county Community Development Department.
The changes also altered the site plan approval process — which still rests with the planning commissions — to allow builders to appeal site plan denials to the county commission.
However, 11 St. Simons Island residents and property owners allege that the county did not give proper public notice of the amendments as required by the county’s zoning ordinance before the meeting at which the county commission approved them.
The plaintiffs also argue that the county failed to comply with state law because it did not provide enough information about the amendments in the meeting agenda.
Glynn County Superior Court Judge Anthony Harrison found their arguments lacking.
“Plaintiffs contend that the county commission’s failure to comply with its zoning ordinance requirements, and the agenda requirements of the Georgia Open Meetings Act, together or singularly, amounted to a violation of Georgia’s Zoning Procedure Law,” Harrison’s order reads. “As such, they argue, the court should declare the amendments unenforceable and should declare as invalid any planning or zoning project approved thereunder.”
Harrison did not find the argument that the notices did not include enough information to be persuasive.
“Here the published notices set forth the date, time and place of the hearing, as well as a description of the proposed amendments, the court finds that they complied with (the zoning ordinance),” Harrison wrote in the order. “As such, plaintiffs’ allegation to the contrary is without merit.”
Addressing the allegation that the county didn’t provide the full versions of the amendments before the meeting, Harrison wrote that it didn’t need to do so.
“Where plaintiffs point to no authority requiring the full text of a proposed amendment be available for public review before a hearing, the court finds this allegation to be without merit as well,” according to the order. “Indeed, had plaintiffs been interested in obtaining the full text of the proposed amendments, they could have reached out to the county’s planning and zoning division as the notice suggests.”
In their court filings, plaintiffs referenced a county code section that requires a public hearing at a regular planning commission meeting before an ordinance amendment is enacted, unless that ordinance would apply within the jurisdiction of both planning commissions.
Because the public hearings on the amendments in question were held at a special called meeting, the plaintiffs allege the county violated that section of the ordinance.
“Where the proposed amendments, if adopted, would apply within both planning commissions’ jurisdictions, a special called joint meeting was an appropriate forum for the commissions to consider the proposed amendments,” Harrison wrote in response. “Plaintiffs’ argument to the contrary is without merit.”
In addition, the plaintiffs alleged that the county commission must approve an ordinance amendment as recommended by the planning commissions, and can’t make any changed without going back through the planning commissions.
Harrison states that claim is without merit as well, writing that the rule only applies to applications for ordinance amendments and not to the approval of ordinance amendments.
Finally, he addresses the last allegation — that the meeting agenda was supposed to include a notice that the commission would take a vote on the item.
“Here, absent any authority requiring an agenda indicate that a vote will follow a properly-noticed public hearing on a proposed action, the court finds this claim to be without merit,” the order states.
An appeal of the decision had not been filed as of Friday.