WOODBINE — Despite repeated requests, state Rep. Jason Spencer said he has no intentions of asking the state to get involved in the hardship variance dispute on Cumberland Island.
Spencer, R-Woodbine, said he understands the concerns many in the community have regarding the variance request, which if approved would allow construction of homes on the barrier island that is a national seashore. But he said the state has no “substantive role” in deciding zoning issues.
“This issue is a local zoning matter that falls under the decision of the Camden County Commission pursuant to their constitutional authority in the Georgia constitution,” he said. “The county commission has the authority under the Georgia constitution to make substantive changes to zoning regulations and ordinances.”
State law prohibits the state from making similar substantive changes or being directly involved with policy changes in local zoning laws. Doing so would violate the state constitution’s home rule provisions, he said.
The only other policy the state could have a say in is how the developments, if approved, could encroach the shore line or adjacent saltwater marshes, which are state property, he said.
“The state already has spoken on this matter through writing the Shore Protection Act and the Coastal Marshlands Protection Act of 1970,” he said. “Those state laws govern any permitting process when these areas are affected, because those areas are within state jurisdiction.”
Spencer said he is advising residents to take their concerns to the Camden County Commission and allow them to weigh and balance the property rights of owners and the public interest. But if commissioners deny property owners “a reasonable use” of their property, Spencer predicted the county could be sued.
“That could be a costly fight for the taxpayers; therefore, denying a reasonable use of private property will be considered a taking,” he said. “Please consider these legal issues as you advocate one way or another for your position.”