The Glynn County Zoning Board of Appeals has had a rough couple of months. In March, the board violated open meeting laws by turning off their microphones to discuss something during a meeting. That embarrassing incident happened either out of a willful disdain for the law or a lack of knowledge about it.
April’s meeting didn’t go much better but for a different reason. The board met Thursday with an item that attracted a lot of attention on its agenda.
County Community Development Director Pamela Thompson signed off on construction plans for 15 parking spaces, one of which would be paved, near a boat ramp at the end of Village Drive. The boat ramp is part of a 258-acre tract of land the St. Simons Land Trust plans to develop into a “low-impact” park.
German Village residents appealed the decision, as the only public access to the boat ramp would be through the neighborhood’s main road.
Members and supporters for both groups packed into the meeting chamber on the second floor of the Old Glynn County Courthouse to state their cases. The only problem is the board didn’t have a quorum to vote on the issue.
The board requires three votes for any official action to be taken. Chairman Walter Rafolski and member Eugene Williams were the only members available to vote on the appeal. Member Philip Viviani was also there, but he correctly recused himself from the vote because he is a also a member of the Land Trust.
Absent the proceedings were members Paul Fisher and Betty Keller.
Keller has been on an extended leave of absence while Rafolski said he was unable to get in touch with Fisher.
County staff members were able to reach Fisher after the meeting was supposed to start, Rafolski explained, but Fisher informed them he would not be able to attend.
Fisher sent in a Letter to the Editor explaining his side of the story.
“I noted in a recent edition my absence from a Board of Appeals (April) meeting,” Fisher wrote in an email. “I received no pre-meeting agendas in the mail — as in the past. I received no notice that the ‘red’ books were available — as in the past. I did not receive the early morning reminder of the hearing — as in the past. But that raised no red flags as my appointment to the board ended with the March meeting.”
German Village residents and land trust members were understandably disappointed with the outcome. Since it was the only item on the agenda, the board meeting never happened. The issue will be pushed back to the May meeting.
If Fisher is correct in his assessment that his appointment ended in March, then there has been a massive communication breakdown between the county and the board.
Solutions to make up for this deficit need to take place before the May meeting.
The county needs to either increase the size of the board to prevent such issues or appoint alternate members who can fill in when needed. What happened last week was nothing but a waste of time for everyone involved.