The Island Planning Commission met Tuesday to discuss dune setbacks and building height restrictions on St. Simons Island.
Both agenda items came from a workshop with Glynn County commissioners in August with the intent of controlling growth on St. Simons Island. And both items were eventually tabled until the Nov. 16 Island Planning Commission meeting to give enough time to hold a public workshop to discuss the proposed changes.
Changes in the beach and dune protection ordinance would reduce the development setback line from 40 feet to 25 feet in areas with an active/stable dune sequence and increase the development setback line from 20 feet to 25 feet for areas without an active/stable dune sequence. Landscaping would be removed as a use requiring a conditional-use permit.
County Commissioner Cap Fendig said the proposed changes were made so the local ordinance matches the requirements of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. The county’s ordinance is more restrictive than the state’s.
An argument in support of the proposal is it could result in more developable land on St. Simons Island.
Alice Keyes, vice president of coastal conservation for the environmental group One Hundred Miles, expressed concerns about the change, saying setbacks serve an important function in these areas. Sea level rise makes it even more important, she said.
“From a practical standpoint, from a public safety standpoint and from a scientific standpoint I cannot recommend it as being a wise vision,” Keyes said. “We should be increasing, not decreasing setbacks so they can continue to serve their function.”
Commissioners voted 5-2 to defer a vote until a workshop is held.
The discussion about the 35-foot building height restriction on St. Simons Island was also tabled after a lengthy discussion about the pros and cons of the proposal.
Fendig said density is the No. 1 concern among most of the people he deals with on St. Simons Island.
“Are we going to take this opportunity to consider how to restrain density?” he asked.
Fendig said there are more than 500 home sites waiting to be built on the island, with the potential to add even more traffic congestion.
“This is our opportunity to say good is good, but we don’t want more,” he said.
After the unanimous vote to defer a decision until a workshop and the Nov. 16 meeting, Fendig expressed optimism an agreement can be reached.
“This is the beginning of a conversation we need to have,” he said. “The future of our island is in your hands to work this ordinance through to the right balance.”
Commissioners unanimously approved a request to change the location of an already zoned community dock in Frederica Township. The proposed dock on the Frederica River would be used exclusively by residents in the private community and their guests.
Ownership of the dock will eventually be turned over to the development’s homeowner’s association.