The Glynn County Mainland Planning Commission voted to grant a request to rezone a parcel and amend the county’s future land use map for the owner of an RV park so the park can expand.

Residents of the Majestic Oaks neighborhood turned out to protest the rezoning, saying Southern Retreat RV Park already had plenty of problems and the expansion would only bring it closer to the residential area.

RV park owner Mario Garcia plans to extend the RV park deeper into the woods between Southern Retreat and Majestic Oaks, expanding the park’s 168 camping spaces by adding 192 new sites.

During a public hearing on the future land use map amendment, resident Marian McGraw said she expected the light and noise pollution, impacts on drainage and sewer and a negative effect on traffic would hurt the neighborhood’s property values and attract more development detrimental to a residential area.

James Harden, another Majestic Oaks homeowner, said the request was “flipping the map,” turning a residential zoning into a commercial one. Commissioners would effectively be spot zoning if they approved the rezoning.

He said approving the application would also invite more requests to rezone for commercial ventures around the partially developed neighborhood.

“My neighbors and I can see where this is going ... there’s tools available to you to make sure that we, the neighbors, are impacted minimally,” Hardin said.

Commissioner Bill Edgy said he and fellow MPC member Missy Neu sat on the committee that developed the future land use map, or FLUM, and were told by the consultant assisting them that the map was supposed to serve as a guide for future zoning.

It’s a living document, he said, but for the right applications. He felt Tuesday night’s request was the right application.

Planning Commissioner Neal Boatright motioned to approve the FLUM amendment, which passed 6-1. Edgy, Neu and Boatright, along with fellow Commissioners Bo Clark and Sherrye Gibbs and Chairman Richard Strickland voted in favor of the motion. MPC member Darrell Dawson cast the lone ‘no’ vote.

The Glynn County Commission will make the final ruling at a future meeting.

Edgy commended Garcia for meeting with residents.

During consideration of the second half of his request — to rezone the property — Garcia said the plan for the expansion includes a wooded buffer twice the size of the original in an attempt to assuage resident concerns. He purchased Southern Retreat in 2019 and said he hoped to turn the RV park into more of a resort, a high-class destination.

He acknowledged the wooded area behind the park is frequented by homeless people and that the RV park has been the site of drug deals and prostitution. He’s tried a lot of measures to keep them out, but nothing has worked so far.

He hopes the expansion will drive out some of that element and improve the area’s reputation.

Neighborhood resident Donna Collins she was not notified of a meeting with Garcia but would have liked to talk about the project. She had heard of the homeless issue but didn’t see how the expansion would do anything other than push the problem behind the park into the neighborhood.

The buffer was of concern to McGraw, who noted a difference in size between two documents. Chris Amos, engineer for the project, said the larger, 50-foot wooded buffer would be in the final plan.

“It’s very disappointing when you think of the time and effort and funds we’ve put into making our homes in Majestic Oaks special,” McGraw said.

Boatright motioned to approve the rezoning on the condition that the zoning would revert to the residential zoning if the property is used for anything other than the RV park.

The motion passed unanimously.

The commission also approved a new concrete plant at 5133 Ga. 99 but not without some resistance.

“The project site has been general industrial since at least 1980, and the site is across the highway from Autumn’s Wood,” said county planner Maurice Postal.

Amos, also the engineer on the concrete plant project, said the entrance to the plant would be directly across Ga. 99 from the residential area and that the final layout of the plant may look somewhat different by the time construction begins.

MPC members asked about the number of trucks and the hours of operation, to which Amos had no answers. He said concrete plants normally operate in the 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. range.

Gibbs noted a common problem with concrete plants is dust. She asked what the plant owners planned to do to mitigate that.

Amos said most of the work that kicks up dust would be done as far from the road and neighborhood as possible but added that he didn’t not think the operation would kick up much dust.

The plant could have a serious impact on Autumn’s Wood depending on the hours of operation and the dust, she said, but Amos was not particularly concerned it would be a problem.

“I know when this was zoned industrial there were no neighborhoods on 99, but there is now,” Gibbs said. “I am very concerned about the particulate matter in the air.”

Boatright, a new member of the commission, said concrete plants come and go and asked if the plant was here to stay or if it would be a temporary fixture.

Amos said the same company opened a plant in Kingsland and is looking at another in Jacksonville, an indication it’s not looking to take advantage of a short-term construction boom.

Boatright also asked if the plant could be moved from the road more.

According to Amos, they need a lot of room in the back for storage and the company doesn’t want to pave a long asphalt road for concrete trucks to access the plant.

Gibbs moved to deny the application, which passed 4-3. Gibbs, Boatright, Clark and Strickland voted in favor of the motion, while Dawson, Edgy and Neu voted against it.

Amos was not happy with the ruling. He asked the MPC to delineate the issues with the site plan.

“This is an industrially zoned property, it’s zoned for the use, so what can we do?” Amos asked.

Boatright said plants are noisy and produce a lot of dust and waste

“We’re a football field away from the houses, so how far could we move it for that not to be a concern?” Amos asked.

Moving the truck parking and storage area to the front of the property and the plant and cement mixing to the back would satisfy most of their concerns, Boatright said. He also noted that the applicant could appeal the MPC’s decision to the Glynn County Commission.

Neu interjected she had concerns denying the application. That region of the county features large swathes of industrial area, and the neighborhoods came after the zoning was put in place.

“That area is a great part of our potential for growth and economic opportunity,” Neu said, noting denial could cause future investors to question bringing their business to Glynn County.

Gibbs said her big concern was potential pollution, and any attempt to address that would go a long way with her.

Boatright suggested constructing a berm to block off light and noise from the plant for Autumn’s Wood.

“Concrete plants don’t need visibility. Us contractors know where to get concrete. It’s just a phone call away,” Boatright said.

Amos said a berm would need to be 40 to 50 feet high to make a difference. He said a thick vegetation buffer, as was proposed, would do an equally good job.

After further discussion, Clark motioned to reconsider the decision. That motion passed unanimously, as did a subsequent motion by Edgy to approve the site plan.

The MPC also approved:

• A site plan for a project to renovate the former Grace Baptist Church sanctuary and gym on Granville Nix Road into office and storage space and to construct two new 20,000 square foot storage facilities.

• A variance and site plan update for a 186-unit townhouse development on Golden Isles Parkway adjacent to the county’s public safety complex. Units will only be available for rent when the complex opens, according to a representative for the developer, but the variance requested will allow for the eventual subdividing of the property if the company decides to sell.

More from this section

The Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce was lucky enough to have timed its annual Business and Bites event in 2020 just before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Okefenokee Swamp Park has been a destination for tourists across the world because of the painstaking way it has been preserved over the years.