The Plumbroke Saga Continues

It is time for you to begin the process of restoring confidence in the planning process in Glynn County

Dear Ms. Thompson:

The official Glynn County website states that “The Islands Planning Commission makes decisions and recommendations on matters concerning the growth and development of the County.” As of the date of this message, the IPC has made only one recommendation regarding a proposed subdivision on the west side of Plumbroke Road. That was on December 15th, 2015 (see below) before you replaced David Hainley as Director of Community Development. I believe it is time for you, as Director of Community Development, to ask the IPC to review and make recommendations regarding what I refer to as the Peterson subdivision on Plumbroke Road and what Patrick Duncan calls The Orchard subdivision on Plum Orchard Road.

Please bear with me as I establish a chronology of events that began in 1940 when a landowner submitted a “map” (i.e., a plat) for twenty-three small lots in a subdivision that was never developed:

May 9th, 1940: J. S. Peterson submits his map for the twenty-three lots, the fifty foot wide right of way, and one “proposed park and play grounds” identified as “Peterson’s Subdivision” and “dedicate[s] to the use of the public forever, all streets, parks, [and] alleys . . . shown on this map of said land.” On this map, lot 13 is identified as “reserve[d] for park or street” and the tract north of lot 23 bordering on what is identified as “salt marsh” is identified as “proposed park and playgrounds.”

May 14th, 1940: H. J. Friedman, identified as “Engineer, Glynn County, Planning Board” states that “It is hereby certified that the Planning Board of Glynn County, Georgia, has officially approved this map.”

May 15th, 1940: H. J. Friedman, identified as “Engineer-Clerk Commissioners of Roads & Revenue”, states that “It is hereby certified that the Commissioners of Roads and Revenue of Glynn County, Georgia, have officially approved this map.”

Following the approval of the Peterson subdivision in 1940, all but one of the lots remain vacant. The lone house is one built on lot 2.

March 31st, 2015: Sometime before this date, Patrick Duncan apparently hires the private law firm headed by State Senator William Ligon to begin efforts to get Glynn County Attorney Aaron Mumford to “confirm that the county does not claim an interest in Lot 13 [or] the proposed park at the Marsh.” (March 31st, 2015 is the date of the first document concerning these efforts provided to me on the basis of a GORA request.)

April 6th, 2015: Patrick Duncan purchases lot 1 and lots 3 through 18 of the Peterson subdivision approved in 1940.

December 15th, 2015: On the basis of a rezoning request apparently initiated by Patrick Duncan and filed by then Director of Community Development David Hainley on behalf of Glynn County, the IPC votes unanimously to recommend ZM3153 to the Board of Commissioners that all but one of the twenty-three lots approved in 1940 and three large parcels on the east side of Plumbroke Road be downzoned from Medium Residential to R9 One Family Residential.

December 30th, 2015: Patrick Duncan purchases lots 19 and 20 of the Peterson subdivision approved in 1940.

February 18th, 2016: At its meeting on this date, the Glynn County Board of Commissioners approves ZM3153 (the downzoning of the Peterson subdivision and three parcels to the east of Plumbroke Road). The BOC also spends three minutes approving a resolution “disclaiming interest” in Plumbroke Road as a public right of way, in a public park or street on lot 13, and in the proposed park and playgrounds on the tract north of lot 23.

June 9th, 2016: Patrick Duncan and Judge Orion Douglass, the owner of lots 21 through 23, file a “Petition to Quiet Title Against All the World” and against the right of abutting property owners to access their property by way of Plumbroke Road. This petition has the effect of causing some abutting properties to be land-locked.

January 5th, 2017: Commissioner Browning nominates Patrick Duncan for appointment to the Islands Planning Commission and the BOC appoints him.

January 17, 2017: Patrick Duncan takes his seat as a member of the Islands Planning Commission.

December 13th, 2017: Patrick Duncan is elected Chair of the Islands Planning Commission.

June 21, 2018: By approving TA3797 by a vote of four to three, the County Commission removes authority for review and approval of Preliminary Plats from the two Planning Commissions and gives that authority to the Director of Community Development or planning staff. Nothing in TA3797 precludes you as Director of Community Development from submitting a Preliminary Plat to the IPC for a recommendation that it be approved, denied, or modified.

August 20th, 2018: Jackson Surveying, Inc., of Brunswick conducts a field survey for Patrick Duncan as the first stage of a proposed “re-plat” of the Peterson subdivision.

September 13, 2018: Sometime before this date, Patrick Duncan files the “re-plat” of the Peterson subdivision, now called “The Orchard”, as part of an application for a Final Plat with the Department of Community Development. On this date, the “Planner’s Pre-Review” of the application for FP3883 results in a finding of “Compliant” by Denise Keller, a Planning Technician.

September 18th, 2018: “FP3883 The Orchard—fmly Peterson Sub” first appears on the Glynn County Open Projects List. It appears on five future Open Projects Lists.

November 9th, 2018: Glynn County GIS Analyst Marilyn Proper, in her review of FP3883, states that the plat is “NOT Compliant” because “Since this is being treated as an Expedited Subdivision instead of a Final Plat, the signature block for an Expedited Subdivision needs to be added.” This is the first but not the last time documents provided to me refer to FP3883 as being treated as an Expedited Subdivision. Which invites the question: why would you or your planning staff treat a property owned by the chair of the IPC as an “Expedited Subdivision” when an Expedited Subdivision can have no more than four lots?

February 7th, 2019: Duncan files a request for a variance from the dimensional controls on nine substandard lots in “The Orchard”—but fails to identify a hardship that would be caused by enforcement of Zoning Ordinance.

February 26th, 2019: “FP3883 The Orchard—fmly Peterson Sub” makes its final appearance on the Open Projects list where it is described as “Final plat approval of a 19 lot subdivision”.

March 7th, 2019: In an email, Glynn County Planning Technician Denise Keller informs me that because “this project is awaiting a variance approval, and cannot proceed forward until then . . . the documents have not been compiled for the BOC meeting.” An hour later, Planner Stefanie Leif sends me an email correcting the first by informing me that FP3883 “is an administrative review and approval process as it is a replat of an existing subdivision with no new lots created. Thus, it will not be on a BOC agenda.”

March 14, 2019: The Glynn County Zoning Board of Appeals holds a public hearing on ZV3963, Duncan’s variance request. Despite a planning staff recommendation of approval, after considering the matter for nearly an hour and a half, the ZBA denies granting a variance.

March 15th, 2019: Duncan files an appeal of the ZBA decision with you instead of, as required, with the Board of Commissioners.

March 18th, 2019: At the BOC meeting, after two citizens ask the Commissioners to revoke the “disclaimer of interest” resolution approved in February, 2016, Chair Michael Browning asks the County Attorney to look into the matter and promises that “If there have been some wrongs done we will correct them.”

April 4th, 2019: At the BOC meeting, after a third citizen asks that the “disclaimer of interest” be revoked, Chair Browning spends more than a minute explaining that the County Attorney is looking into the matter.

April 11th, 2019: In a fifteen or twenty minute meeting in his office, County Attorney Mumford tells me he plans to set up a meeting with attorneys for Patrick Duncan and attorneys for abutting property owners in order to find a way to resolve litigation growing out of the February 2016 downzoning and the “disclaimer of interest” and that he sees no need to revoke the resolution to disclaim interest in Plumbroke Road as dedicated to public use.

April 16th, 2019: At the IPC meeting this evening, a motion to schedule a workshop before any decision is made regarding FP3883 is seconded but is voted down without discussion in a meeting that lasts only ten minutes. This is the first time since the IPC meeting in December 2015 that anything related to the subdivision on Plumbroke Road has been mentioned at an IPC meeting.

April 18th, 2019: At the BOC meeting, after two more citizens speak about the need to revoke the 2016 “disclaimer of interest”, Chair Browning says nothing in response and moves immediately to the next item on the agenda.

As of today, April 22nd, 2019, it seems clear that your efforts to approve or seek County Commission approval of a final plat for this subdivision without review by the Islands Planning Commission has resulted in unnecessary confusion and delay. Perhaps the best thing for you to do is to ask Patrick Duncan to withdraw his “re-plat” for consideration as a final plat and to resubmit it as a preliminary plat, then request that the IPC make recommendations on that preliminary plat before denying or approving it or asking that it be modified.

Sincerely,

Julian Smith