An overhaul of Glynn County’s zoning rules has been pushed back from December to May of next year.
“We’ve been waiting to see what’s going on with the (COVID-19) pandemic, and I think at this point we’re ready to move forward in virtual or other ways,” Woody Giles, senior associate with planning and architecture consulting firm TSW, said Tuesday.
The consultant has been working for the past several months to clean up and clarify the zoning ordinance, make appropriate changes and translate the county’s latest comprehensive plan into zoning rules. He also has been handling public input and feedback.
The Islands and Mainland planning commissions met with consultants Tuesday to go over options for changing various development rules and deciding which ones to present to the public.
Regardless of which options the county goes with, the new rules will apply only to new developments once the new ordinance is passed.
“It would be very unlikely that the county would ever adopt ordinances that retroactively apply or conflict with HOA requirements,” said Caleb Racicot, also with TSW.
Giles said the public will be invited to an open house to vote on each issue once the planning commissioners review them.
They started with possible changes to the point from which building height is measured. Currently, building height is limited to 35 feet and measures from either flood level or ground level, whichever is higher.
One proposed change would be to measure from ground level in all cases, ground-level before grading or from the mid-point of sloped roofs, among other potential options.
Commissioners also discussed how high one must build above the base flood elevation. Options included no changes — one foot above flood elevation — increasing it from one foot to two or to three feet.
In both cases, most planning commissioners feared unintended consequences of too harshly restricting building height and recommended leaving it the same.
“We probably started this session with the two toughest issues,” said IPC member Patrick Duncan.
Ultimately both sets of options will be posed to the public.
When discussing options for imposing landscaping and architectural design standards outside of St. Simons Island, MPC member Missy Neu reminded the board what such requirements would do.
“This will add cost to the cost of housing and remodeling and updating and all of those things to homes,” Neu said.
When the public is asked to weigh in, the county should make sure it is aware of the costs and remember that the area doesn’t have enough affordable housing, she said.
Planning manager Stefanie Leif said design standards could be useful in some areas on the mainland, like the main gateways into the county.
Ultimately, they decided to completely remove the option to impose countywide design standards.
Other issues on the list include open space requirements, protections for historic buildings, changing buffer regulations, fence and wall restrictions, signage regulations and creating a new “neighborhood retail” zoning category.
Rather than going through each option Tuesday, the commissioners decided to work on them individually and submit their recommendations in writing by the end of the month.
A date for the public open house has not been scheduled.