New regulations and amendments to existing ones accounted for much of the discussion at a town hall on St. Simons Island issues held Wednesday.
Golden Isles residents filled Sea Palms Resort’s grand ballroom Wednesday night to attend the first quarterly island town hall meeting of 2019 arranged by Glynn County Commissioner Peter Murphy — who represents St. Simons, Jekyll and Sea islands.
During a presentation at the beginning of the meeting, he updated the public on efforts to regulate short term rentals and golf carts.
Under the current ordinances, county code enforcement has a hard time dealing with short-term rentals. In addition, they often use third-party websites to avoid paying bed taxes on rentals.
County officials have been talking with a consultant that has helped other local governments establish regulations on short term rentals, and may bring them on board to do the same in the Golden Isles soon, he said.
Regulating golf carts is a little more complicated of a subject, however. County code isn’t up to state standards, but the state law isn’t as strict as county officials would like, he said.
As an example, state law requires cart owners install seat belt and child seats if children are in the vehicle, but not that they use them.
Glynn County is working on updating its ordinances, and he said he and other officials have taken the issue to state legislators.
Proposed golf cart regulations would likely apply exclusively to St. Simons Island, Murphy has previously said, but short-term rental regulations could apply countywide.
In line with the priorities set out in the county’s strategic plan, Murphy reminded the audience that the county engaged the services of a consultant to help rewrite its zoning ordinance and possibly change the zoning in some locations.
As an example, he used a Frederica Road property on which a developer submitted plans for a Dollar General. The site plan was denied follow protest island residents, which led to a lengthy court battle the county ultimately won.
The lot was zoned highway commercial, which did not fit in at all with the surrounding land usage, he said. More strict regulations, addition island overlay districts or zoning changes could prevent repeats in the future.
Following the presentation, he opened the floor to questions.
County resident Bill Pickard proposed banning outdoor burning in residential areas of the county, noting it is banned in the city of Brunswick and on Jekyll Island.
“I’m not in favor of more laws, I’m in favor of better laws, and I would like to suggest that when you look at those laws you tweak it, and you ban outdoor burning in the most developed areas: developed neighborhoods,” Pickard said.
Among those at the meeting, county commission Chairman Mike Browning agreed with him.
“That’s a problem all over Glynn County. Some of the less developed areas of Glynn County have the same problems,” Browning said.
Two members of the public brought up stormwater drainage, asking if the county’s code will account for future drainage needs and whether or not they adequately cover current needs.
Community Development Director Pamela Thompson addressed both questions, noting in some cases that the developer is at fault. However, drainage regulations will get attention along with other proposed planning and zoning ordinance changes, she said.
Murphy also covered other old business items in his presentation earlier in the meeting, addressing major road and infrastructure projects, efforts to preserve two historic trees in Neptune Park and planned shoreline protection measures, among other things.
A project to overhaul the stormwater drainage system in the Pier Village began this week, and will likely continue until around March. Contractors working on the project will need to teat up pavement and sidewalks, but the long-term benefits will be worth it, he said.
County staff will meet with the public every Wednesday at 10 a.m. in the Glynn County Casino Building to answer questions about the project until completion, Murphy added.
There hasn’t been much movement in preserving the trees, he said, but a proposal for moving the picnic area to another location may be forthcoming.
He also mentioned a proposed toll on the F.J. Torras Causeway. It’ s a long way off, but the idea is alive and well.
Should the public want to keep attending them, he said another town hall will be scheduled for the second quarter of 2019.