A property once considered for a Dollar General on St. Simons Island now belongs to the St. Simons Land Trust.
The organization purchased the property this week, just weeks after a decision by the Georgia Court of Appeals to throw out a case relating to the proposed discount retail store.
“We’ll just have to take a look at the building (currently on the property) and see if it can be economically repurposed as our office. If we can’t, we will likely take it down. We don’t have any intention of using it for any other purpose than our office or green space,” said land trust Executive Director David Pope.
Michael Gilles, president of the Laurel View homeowners’ association, said he was happy and grateful to hear the news.
“I’m grateful to the land trust folks for taking the initiative to get it done, and also grateful to Teramore for seeing this was a good way to wind up the situation, and in the end it is the best for everyone. I’m grateful to the St. Simons community for coming together to oppose a situation that wasn’t good in that particular spot for commercial development,” Gilles said.
Residents of Laurel View, a neighborhood next door to 1810 Frederica Road, vigorously opposed a proposal in 2016 to build a Dollar General on the property. Its members worked to spread the word and encourage St. Simons Island residents to voice their concerns about the proposal.
While he said he hadn’t had time to poll the rest of the homeowners association, he imagined most would be glad to hear of the land trust’s acquisition.
“It being in the land trust’s hands is really exciting news, we’re happy to have them as neighbors,” Gilles said.
The 1.42-acre piece of land at 1810 Frederica Road was the subject of much contention in 2016, when Teramore Development proposed a Dollar General for the lot.
Hundreds of St. Simons Island residents turned out to Islands Planning Commission meetings to protest the store’s site plan, which the IPC ultimately denied in August 2016. Teramore took the county to court later that same month over the denial.
Glynn County Superior Court Judge Stephen Kelley decided in the county’s favor. The case then went to the state appeals court. On Feb. 22, the Court of Appeals tossed the case, ending the year-and-a-half long court battle.
“We are very happy we were able to secure this important site,” Pope said in a statement released Thursday evening. “We’re grateful to Teramore Development, the previous owner of the property, for working with us to make the deal happen. We believe this acquisition will be well received in the community.”
Pope declined to say how long the deal had been in the works.
“We’ve been in touch with them on and off for a long time,” Pope said Friday.
The deal was negotiated by Frank Mitchell, Pope said. Mitchell is the division president of St. Simons Bank and Trust and a member of the land trust’s board of directors.
Mitchell made the deal using money from a $4 million challenge grant from the Anschutz Foundation. The Anschutz family also owns the Sea Island Co.
The land trust also recently acquired a property across the street, 1819 Frederica Road, on which the historic Mildred Huie Museum sits. Mitchell said in the press release that the two acquisitions would allow the land trust to protect the Frederica corridor from increasing commercial development.
The land trust doesn’t have any other property in that area in its sights at the moment, Pope said.