A project to improve stormwater drainage in the Pier Village on St. Simons Island is nearly complete, county officials say, and expect to finish up infrastructure work on Mallery Street by next week.
Glynn County Commissioner Peter Murphy kicked off a quarterly town hall meeting Wednesday with a half-hour presentation on a number of outstanding St. Simons Island issues, during which he touched on the drainage project.
“Today, we had our regular Wednesday meeting, and we were told (in) eight working days they will be buttoned-up and done in the village, and that will mean sidewalks in, pipes in, flowable fill on top of the pipes and asphalt in,” Murphy said.
Bad weather could add a day or two to the estimate, he added.
The project, he said, is roughly a month and a half behind schedule. One Pier Village business owner described the project as “fraught with delays” following the county’s April 10 drainage meeting.
A lot of it had to do with documents inaccurately detailing the locations of drainage, water and sewer pipes.
“We dug up the road with diagrams and plans from years past and what they found in those areas had nothing to do with those plans,” Murphy said.
Now that the major infrastructure work in the village is nearly complete, Murphy said the county will start working on intersection improvements at East Beach Causeway’s intersections with Ocean Boulevard and Demere Road and the intersection of Frederica Road and Kings Way.
“The reason they haven’t been done until the present time is we simply couldn’t do them at the present time. I can’t image redoing the intersection of Frederica and Kings Way with the village drainage going on, and the resurfacing of Frederica Road,” Murphy said. “We always planned to do those later in the year.”
He said he would be meeting with county staff members today to discuss how the intersection improvements will go down.
On the subject of infrastructure, Murphy also spoke about a proposed Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax 2020.
The county needs more money to repair and maintain infrastructure countywide, but most of the county’s revenue goes towards running the government, Murphy said, and trimming up what waste there is in the government wouldn’t be near enough to make a dent in infrastructure needs.
“If you all see a significant need, and I’m not talking about a pothole in the street in your neighborhood, I’m talking about a significant, costly project that we don’t seem to have our eyes on, let one of the commissioners know,” Murphy said. Let one of the administrative staff know, because this is something we’re all going to vote on.”
Local regulations on short-term rentals and golf carts are still in the works, Murphy said. Large short-term rental websites are lobbying for a state house bill that would put the power to regulate them in the state government’s hands, but he said they’re pressing ahead regardless.
“I thought our (county commission) Chairman Mike Browning put it best when he heard this. He said ‘OK, when people have a problem down here, and there’s an issue with short-term rental problem here, who are they going to call in Atlanta? Who’s the person on the other end? Obviously, the answer is nobody,’” Murphy said.
He also brought the public up to speed on plans to preserve two historic Neptune Park trees, a project to reinforce the Johnson rock revetment on the south end of St. Simons Island and an overhaul of the county’s zoning ordinance.
Finally, he addressed some issues he hasn’t heard anything about it a while.
Among them were how the county will resolve a $1 million shortfall in the Glynn County Clerk of Superior Court’s accounts, the impact to the tax digest from a recent court decision determining the county had incorrectly applied homestead exemptions, impact fee implementation and a proposed ferry between St. Simons and Jekyll islands.
Following Murphy’s presentation, he opened the floor to questions from the public.
Island resident Stan Kyker told Murphy about a house in his neighborhood, King City near the Pier Village, that as many 22 people have rented out at once. It’s become a major disruption to the neighborhood, and he asked if the county’s proposed short-term rental regulations would protect citizens and provide them with adequate recourse.
Murphy said it likely would. If the county partners with Host Compliance — a California-based consulting agency specializing in helping counties establish and enforce short-term rental regulations — it will offer a 24-hour hotline to report ordinance violations, he explained, and regulations may include revocation of the rental owner’s business license as a punitive measure.
Diane Bowen Chilton, another St. Simons resident, said many people cross Sea Island Road — including herself, often with her children — at Hamilton Road. It’s a dangerous venture, she explained, and asked if the county could install a pedestrian crossing at the location.
The county has consulted with traffic engineers about putting a crossing there, and has been advised against it due to the traffic volume, Murphy said. Instead, plans are in the works to run a bike path from Hamilton Road down to the crossing at Sea Island Road and Demere Road.
Chilton said that’s not particularly safe either because of a slip lane from Demere onto Sea Island Road that features a sign telling drivers in the lane not to stop.
County resident David Lewis brought up an alternate perspective of short-term rentals. He said the 1,200 rentals in the county are booked up to 80 percent every night. That shakes out to around 365,000 booked nights year, he added.
He then asked how many reports the county has gotten of ordinance violations by renters.
County Community Development Director Pamela Thompson said she didn’t have that number on hand, but could get it. Some are reported to the Glynn County Police Department instead of code enforcement, however, so the number would be higher than the reports she has access to.
Police Chief John Powell said he could likely get a rough estimate of the reports to the police department, and Thompson said that, with those, she could make a ballpark estimate.
Island resident Bill Gusman pointed out that hotels have to pay three taxes that at least partially go to the county, which amount to roughly $8 per $100 the hotel earns. Short-term rental owners pay none of those, he said.
The town hall meeting concluded with a showing of the documentary “St. Simons Island: Surviving Success,” produced by filmmakers Lance Lipman and George Crain, both St. Simons residents.