Members of multiple Harry Driggers Boulevard neighborhoods turned out to the Glynn County Mainland Planning Commission’s Tuesday night meeting to protest a proposed rezoning in the area.
According to a planning and zoning division staff report on the rezoning request, the owners of the property at 521 Harry Diggers Boulevard were seeking to amend the property’s planned development text — or PD text, a document that details the allowed uses on a property — to permit “commercial uses such as a recreational vehicle and boat trailer storage, wash bay, air and vacuum center, ice and water vending, laundromat limited to washers and dryers only and outdoor pet park.”
To get the text amended, the owners also had to request an amendment to the county’s future land use map.
The future land use map, or FLUM, is part of the county’s comprehensive plan and lays out generally which areas of the county should be subject to specific types of development.
The MPC does not have the authority to give final approval on rezoning and FLUM amendment requests, only recommendations to the Glynn County Commission.
Currently, the FLUM designates the area around 521 Harry Driggers Boulevard as medium-density residential and the property owners, Walter and Miranda Smith, wanted to amend the map to designate the 3.5-acre lot as commercial.
Planning Manager Stefanie Leif said the owners had submitted a more detailed plan earlier in the day, which showed a pet park in the bottom corner of the lot, a small building for washers and dryers only in the middle with an RV and boat parking area off to one side. Most of the lot is wooded wetlands which would buffer it from neighborhoods, she said.
However, the county’s planning and zoning staff recommended the planning commission deny the FLUM amendment. Introducing a small amount of commercial zoning in the middle of the largely contiguous residential area along Harry Driggers Boulevard would cause a clash of land uses, she explained.
“Staff has concerns about moving to a commercial use in general,” Leif said.
Miranda and Walter Smith, the landowners, noted that some properties on the road were classified as industrial on the FLUM and could be used for commercial purposes, as well as one corner of the Bible Baptist Church property.
“Everything around us is not just residential, but a lot of industrial. A lot of industrial added at the end of Harry Driggers Boulevard,” Miranda Smith said.
The purposes for which the Smiths wanted to use the property — laundry, pet park, ice and water vending and RV and boat storage — were all allowed in neighborhoods as amenities, she explained.
As such, Walter Smith said they could do exactly what they wanted to with the property as long as they didn’t charge for the services.
The MPC meeting Tuesday night drew a standing-room-only crowd, most of which were there to speak against the proposed FLUM amendment and rezoning.
St. Simons Island resident Julian Smith, who owns a home nearby, said he liked the plan but didn’t support it in that area.
He said he didn’t see a need to amend the FLUM. In the future, the residents of Harry Driggers Boulevard may want nice commercial establishments along the road. They obviously didn’t on Tuesday night, he said.
Paul Spike, a Hardwood Forest resident, said granting the Smiths’ request would set a precedent for further commercial development
“If you change one, the others will drop like shoes,” Spike said.
He also said that the Smiths’ request amount to spot-zoning.
Country Walk resident Roy Lucas said he drove the area the day of the meeting and found similar amenities to what the Smiths were proposing within a short distance.
The amenities were not needed, said Lexington Place resident Tom King. He said he appreciated the quiet, residential nature of Harry Driggers Boulevard, and said similar businesses were only a short drive away on Canal Road and on U.S. Highway 17.
Mike Landrum, the pastor of Bible Baptist Church, said the development would break up the natural beauty of the stretch of road. He also noted the condition of Harry Driggers Boulevard at the U.S. Highway 17 end, where the industrial properties are found, saying that could happen to the rest of the road if commercial development ran rampant.
Otanisha Dawson, of Lexington Place, echoed some of the same concerns, but added that the residents aren’t speaking selfishly but in defense of the whole community.
Another Hardwood Forest resident and three residents of Lexington Place spoke against the proposal as well, echoing similar sentiments.
Miranda Smith responded to the residents, saying she heard their concerns about the negative effects the commercial venture could have on the area. She said it was the main reason why the Smiths had proposed several restrictions on the property.
She also explained that the proposal would not be spot-zoning, as the road was already host to several industrial properties.
Reiterating Walter Smith’s earlier words, Miranda said they could develop the property as they wanted without the rezoning if they didn’t charge for the services.
“No income, for free, means you’re not cutting your grass. That’s just how business works,” Smith said.
MPC member Richard Strickland, who lives in the Southern Landing neighborhood off Harry Driggers Boulevard, said he didn’t support any commercial development on the road.
“I also don’t want to be threatened. When you get up here and tell us, ‘If you don’t allow us to do this, this is what we’re going to do on our own and we don’t care what you think, I would like to thank that we’re better neighbors than that all over Glynn County,” Strickland said.
Fellow MPC member John Williams agreed, as did Gary Nevill.
Strickland made a motion to deny the FLUM amendment, which passed 6-0. MPC member Missy Neu left earlier in the meeting.
Following the denial of the FLUM amendment, the commission moved on to the rezoning request for the same property.
Leif said that planning and zoning staff once again recommend denial.
Miranda Smith took the opportunity to dispute Strickland’s interpretation of their words, saying she simply meant to illustrate that they were trying to put greater restrictions on the property than currently exist.
“Would like to add that’s not a threat. I know my rights as a property owner, and on those two lots there’s no restrictions,” Miranda Smith said.
She wanted more time to discuss the matter with other parties involved, however, and requested the MPC defer the rezoning to its next meeting on Feb. 4.
It voted to do so 6-0.
The MPC also recommended the county commission approve a rezoning request to allow a development of 122 residential units — one single-family home, 26 duplexes and 95 townhomes — on Oak Grove Island.
According to Leif, the existing PD text over the property allows a marina, dry storage, 200-room hotel and apartments.
Jonathan Roberts, with Roberts Civil Engineering, represented the applicant and said the requested rezoning to medium residential was essentially a down-zoning, or a rezoning intended to reduce the density of possible developments.
“Let’s say the people that own this now, as frequently happens, go in the tank. What’s to stop whoever buys that from turning around and doing what y’all are trying not to do,” asked Strickland.
Roberts said the MR zoning is much more restrictive than the current PD text, and any future owners would certainly not be able to develop hotels, marinas or dry storage.
An equal number of people spoke in favor of the rezoning as against. Those speaking in favor of the request were glad to hear of the reduced density, but many of those against it were concerned about the impact the planned development of 122 units would have on the island’s infrastructure and character.
Robert said the application on the table Tuesday night was simply a rezoning. A lot of the concerns about traffic and infrastructure would be addressed in later steps of the development approval process, he said.
MPC Chairman Bill Edgy encouraged the applicant to work with other Oak Grove Island residents to make sure their concerns are answered.
In other business, the MPC voted to:
• Recommended approval to commission a FLUM amendment and rezoning to allow a 166-unit apartment complex at 195 and 255 Scranton Connector.
• Approved a site plan application for a 680 square foot addition to the Gas2Go at 2900 Newcastle Street. The addition will contain a laundromat.
• Approved a site plan for a concrete plant at 1300 Cedar St.
• Approved a site plan for an 880 square foot garage at 2231 Washington St.
The commission’s next meeting is scheduled for Feb. 4.