Overlooked Overlook Park and other issues

Dear Islands Planning Commissioners:

Having compared the Future Land Use Map (FLUM) 2018 prepared by the Ecological Planning Group to what is on the ground now or could or should be on the ground in the near future on Saint Simons Island, I would like to know when the IPC will begin to discuss some of the obvious differences between what is found on FLUM 2018 and our current zoning.

Let me single out one interesting example: currently, all the properties on the north side of Demere Road just east of Plumbroke Road and west of the Waffle House have residential zoning with the exception of tax parcel 04-14354, a narrow strip of land owned by Glynn County abutting the west side of the Waffle House property. Just wide enough to provide pedestrian access from Demere Road to an observation point overlooking the Dunbar Creek marsh about three hundred feet from the sidewalk, this 0.15 acre parcel was once designated as “Overlook Park” but has been overlooked by the county because it is completely overgrown. The legal description on the tax card for this park is “.1885 AC OBSERVATION PARK JEWTOWN”.

The land for this pocket park was acquired by the county in 1987 (see the minutes for the December 17, 1987 BOC meeting). You will also find extensive discussion of “Overlook Park” in the minutes of the December 7, 1993 and the December 6, 1994 meeting of the Glynn County Planning Commission.

And here, from page 14 of the minutes of the October 16, 2012 meeting of the IPC, you will find this statement read into the record by Commissioner Stan Humphries in opposition to ZM2449, an application to rezone the 1.24 acre parcel immediately west of the Overlook Park parcel from Medium Residential to Local Commercial: “Today I have read all of the zoning files and documentation on this property going back to 1987, a total of 25 years. Ms. Gibson and her neighbors have consistently sought only one thing – peaceful enjoyment of their homes where they have lived for many, many years. They have been good citizens of Glynn County and deserve the support of public officials of Glynn County. The owners of this property have repeatedly sought to encroach on the peace and tranquility of these neighbors by petitioning for commercial development…It is the role of government at all levels in democracies to first and foremost act honorably and with good will toward its masters, the citizenry at large…I urge the Islands Planning Commission to do the right thing and deny this request for rezoning. I further urge the owner to…plan a development acceptable to the neighbors…”

On page 15 of these minutes, you will find the end of an agenda item that began on page 8: “A motion was then made by Mr. Humphries to recommend denial of application ZM2449 to rezone from Medium Residential to Planned Development to allow Local Commercial uses. The motion was seconded by Mr. William Lawrence. Voting Aye: (In favor of denial) Mr. Stan Humphries, Mr. Preston Kirkendall, Ms. Patricia Laurens, Mr. William Lawrence and Ms. Desiree Watson. Voting Nay: (Against denial) Mr. John Dow and Mr. Paul Sanders.”

In other words, beginning more than thirty years ago, both County and Planning Commissions have consistently protected the north side of Demere Road between Quamley Wells Drive and the Waffle House from commercial development. But the outside consultants who created FLUM 2018 Seem to have arbitrarily and without consultation with the IPC or affected property owners recommended eventually rezoning all or parts of four residential parcels with about five hundred feet of frontage along Demere Road from “Medium Density Residential” to “Neighborhood Commercial”—and their recommendation includes the overlooked Overlook Park.

Now, if you step back and take a more distant view of FLUM 2018 you will notice that some church properties on the south side of Saint Simons Island, including Saint Williams on Frederica and three churches on the north side of Demere Road west of Quamley Wells Drive are also designated as potential future sites for “Neighborhood Commercial” development. What would Jesus say about turning church properties into commercial developments?

In short, FLUM 2018 has other flaws that both the IPC and MPC need to address and correct. I will communicate with the MPC regarding an example on the mainland.

But for now, I encourage the IPC to begin the process of addressing and correcting this one example close to home.

Respectfully submitted,

Julian Smith