When we crossed that bridge into the 21st Century, the Golden Isles on the Georgia coast were a quirky, laid-back place. Residents and visitors relished being on “island time.”
Quite inadvertently, that all changed with the scheduling of the G-8 meeting in 2004 and the secrecy that went with it. It was as if the islands woke up in a new world where different standards apply. Google even put the Sea Island venue under a veil, just like they did with Iraq, so we couldn’t keep track of the devastation the U.S. wrought.
The hoopla over the G-8 bigwigs meeting up on Sea Island (while the press was persuaded to report from 70 miles away) didn’t have lasting physical effects, but psyches were apparently driven into emulating the movers and shakers and a frenzy of speculation and development took hold. Thousands of acres of woodland, which people had assumed would continue to provide a steady stream of gradual fodder for the paper and chemical mills, were transformed (at least in some people’s fevered imaginations) into new towns and communities over night. Never mind that the coastal muck soils corrode cement and steel and really aren’t good for anything but growing trees.
As good luck would have it, most of those plans never moved off the maps and plats. And then, of course, within four years all that speculation crashed along with the Wall Street-engineered recession. But now, a decade later, we have a problem. As the recession is finally receding even here in the marshes of Georgia, it turns out the plans were just lurking on shelves and nobody had thought to establish a “sell by” date, after which the plans would automatically evaporate.
And that’s why hundreds of islanders are having to turn out and make it clear that thousands of houses under the oaks are not in the cards. Fortunately, the speculators still remember getting burned and aren’t quite as cavalier this time around. Besides, the middlemen they send to represent them get their cut whether or not a paper plat turns into a housing development.