There are problems with St. Simons Island zoning ordinances, but framing these problems as residents’ concern about island “ambiance” trivializes the discussion. Ambience is what you get, or don’t, in a restaurant. The issues here are community sustainability, quantifiable measures of quality of life, property values and public safety.

Please note the 2015 St. Simons Island Existing Conditions and Impacts Report (available by searching for that title online). Buildout scenarios of various percentages of currently approved projects (not including proposed but as yet unapproved projects) are presented in a matrix with critical community infrastructure, services, and resource capacities.

One finding which resonates immediately is that in building even only 50-percent of the currently approved building projects on St. Simons Island, that the level of service of five of eight main roads on St. Simons will be classified as “heavily congested or gridlock”. It’s not just about the inconvenience — it is also about first responder services access, air pollution, emergency evacuation routes, desirability as a tourist destination and more.

And roads are only one aspect of community infrastructure. Building impacts everything that people do or use — public water and sewer, ground water, electric power, schools, wetlands — everything.

Balancing what’s best for the island with landowners’ rights is great, and people can generally buy and sell land freely. That doesn’t mean that you can do, or build, whatever you want to on your property in total disregard for your neighbors and their own corresponding rights, or the rights of the community at large.

Jim Frasche

St. Simons Island

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