A Glynn County Superior Court judge dismissed a lawsuit last week between the Village Bluff Property Owners Association and the Glynn County Commission and county staff.
The lawsuit came about in August after the county commission reversed an appeal of an infrastructure-only construction permit given to the St. Simons Land Trust.
With the permit, the land trust could build a trailhead shelter and grade some dirt parking in the waterfront portion of its new park, Guale Preserve.
“On Jan. 23, 2019, the Glynn County Director of Community Development approved a construction plan/infrastructure-only permit for the St. Simons Land Trust property ... Plaintiff Village Bluff Property Owners Association, Inc., filed a timely appeal of the permit to the Glynn County Board of Appeals,” Glynn County Superior Court Judge Roger Lane wrote in the dismissal order.
“The board of appeals, after public notice, held a public hearing on the appeal May 9, 2019. On June 6, 2019, the board of appeals affirmed the permit but also imposed two conditions on access and development of the St. Simons Land Trust property.”
The conditions prevented the land trust from using Village Drive, the primary road through the German Village neighborhood and its only entrance and exit, as the means to access the waterfront portion of Guale Preserve.
“On July 2, 2019, the Glynn County Community Development Department appealed the conditions placed on the property by the board of appeals ... On July 18, 2019, the Glynn County (Commission) held a public hearing where evidence was presented and thereafter, affirmed the decision of the community development director to issue the permit and struck the conditions and restrictions imposed on the St. Simons Land Trust property by the board of appeals.
“The (commission’s) decision was a final, binding decision.”
The Village Bluff Property Owners Association and Susan Blount filed the lawsuit on Aug. 12, asking for the court to declare the county commission’s decision invalid and reinstate the board of appeals’ conditions.
Also included in the lawsuit is a request for a writ of mandamus, which would compel the county to follow through.
In the order, Lane writes that the plaintiffs don’t qualify for mandamus relief, because it “is an extraordinary remedy that is available only where a litigant seeks to require a public official to perform an act or fulfill a duty that is required by law and where there is no other specific legal remedy.”
The plaintiffs could have sought relief by appealing to the Georgia Supreme Court, which they should have done to begin with because the county commission’s decision was a quasi-judicial one.
“First, a quasi-judicial act is one as to which all parties are as a matter of right entitled to notice and to a hearing, with the opportunity afforded to present evidence under judicial forms of procedure,” Lane wrote in the order. “Second, a quasi-judicial act is one that requires a decisional process that is judicial in nature, involving an ascertainment of the relevant facts from evidence presented and an application of preexisting legal standards to those facts. And third, a quasi-judicial act is one that is final, binding and conclusive of the rights of the interested parties.”
“After review of the factors set forth above, the Court finds that the Board of Commissioners made a quasi-judicial decision that can only be challenged by way of (an appeal to the Supreme Court).”
Because of this, and because a Supreme Court appeal was not filed within 30 days of the original decision, Lane wrote that the superior court did not have jurisdiction over the matter and dismissed the case.
No appeal of Lane’s order had been filed as of Wednesday.