St. Simons Land Trust members and German Village residents were disappointed Thursday when too few Glynn County Board of Appeals members attended a meeting to render a decision on the residents’ appeal of the land trust’s Guale Preserve construction plans.
County Community Development Director Pamela Thompson signed off on construction plans for 15 parking spaces, one of which would be paved, near a boat ramp at the end of Village Drive. The boat ramp is part of a 258-acre tract of land the St. Simons Land Trust plans to develop into a “low-impact” park.
German Village residents appealed the decision, as the only public access to the boat ramp would be through the neighborhood’s main road.
Members and supporters of both groups packed the meeting chamber on the second floor of the Old Glynn County Courthouse Thursday morning in the hopes that they would be able to sway the board during a planned public hearing.
Only the meeting didn’t even start. Chairman Walter Rafolski and Eugene Williams were the only members present and able to vote on the construction plans. The board requires at least three votes to take any official action.
Philip Viviani was present but recused himself due to his land trust membership. The other two members, Paul Fisher and Betty Keller, did not show. Keller has been on an extended leave of absence, Viviani said, and Rafolski failed to contact Fisher about the meeting.
“We will have to postpone this to next month, I am sorry,” Rafolski said. “I called him last night, it’s not like we haven’t tried to get ahold of him.”
County staff members were able to contact him after the meeting was supposed to start, Rafolski explained, but Fisher informed them he would not be able to attend.
Rafolski then told the crowd there wasn’t much point in opening the meeting, as the board wouldn’t be able to vote on the one item on the agenda because it lacked a quorum.
“I’ve never had this happen, and I’ve been here quite a while,” he told the audience.
County resident Julian Smith then spoke up, suggesting the appointment of alternate voting members to stand in for no-shows.
“You’ll have to ask the (Glynn) County Commission why we don’t have alternates,” Rafolski said.
Glynn County Planning Manager Stefanie Leif said the planning and zoning division will have to publish a new public hearing notice for the board of appeals’ next meeting on May 9.
“I’m just disappointed we could not have it resolved this morning. We crossed every ‘t,’ dotted every ‘i,’ and expect it to be approved,” land trust Executive Director David Pope said after the meeting.
However, German Village residents feel they have a good case against the land trust.
The St. Simons Land Trust used a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and private donations to purchase 258 acres of what’s commonly known as the Musgrove Plantation from the Brenn Foundation.
In a previous interview with The News, Pope said the land trust planned to put all 258 acres into a conservation easement and use the land only for a “low-impact” park. The only major changes the land trust intended to make were to clear a trail for biking and hiking, construct a storage shed and to renovate an existing boat ramp, along with two clearings for visitors to park just off Lawrence Road and near the boat ramp.
German Village residents took issue with the intended means of access to the boat ramp, however. The land trust planned to route those looking to use the boat ramp down Village Drive, the entryway into German Village.
The land trust gave German Village residents little consideration when making the decision, and few members ever examined the road before settling on using it, said Melinda Bruley White, an attorney with the Ligon Firm representing German Village residents. Pope has denied similar statements in the past.
County Community Development Director Pamela Thompson signed off on construction plans in January for 15 parking spaces near the boat ramp, one of which would be paved to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The appeal will have to wait until the board’s next meeting, scheduled for 10 a.m. May 9 on the second floor of the Old Glynn County Courthouse, 701 G St. in Brunswick.