Hopes for a more stringent tree ordinance were dashed at the Glynn County Commission’s Thursday meeting after commissioners voted to send it back to the committee that created it to refine and tweak it.
Most of the commissioners were in favor of the idea of a tree ordinance, but thought that this one was too strict and didn’t suit St. Simons Island, to which it would have exclusively applied.
“I don’t think anyone is against a tree ordinance,” said Commissioner Bob Coleman.
Commissioner Mike Browning came out strongly against it, saying that the people agitating for a new ordinance weren’t looking to solve the problem, but were merely looking for a weapon with which to attack new development. Where condos and apartment buildings are seen as the enemy, Browning said people that cut down trees to build small, single family homes are just as guilty.
“We’ve been going after these developments, and going after them and going after them. I get the impression we don’t want any more people coming here unless they live in a certain kind of a home on a certain type of a lot,” Browning said.
Commissioner Mark Stambaugh took issue with the requirement that 25 percent of any given lot must be dedicated to the growing of trees and can’t be used for anything else, going so far as to say that such a restriction could kill a small startup business.
He agreed with the Islands Planning Commission’s recommendation, which was to send it back to the tree ordinance committee for further refinement.
Commissioner for St. Simons, Jekyll and Sea islands, Peter Murphy was very much in favor of the new ordinance.
“Enough is enough, the time has come to pass this, move on (and) live with it,” Murphy said. “Unless we get this passed, it’s just going to be business as usual.”
Siding with Murphy was commissioner Richard Strickland, who said that it may not be a perfect ordinance, but it was a good place to start, and sending it back to the committee would only be kicking the can down the road, something the commission has been trying to do less of.
“Do I like this whole ordinance? No I don’t. I’m not sure that we can ever put an ordinance together that’s going to satisfy everybody on St. Simons. But at least it’s a start, and if we have to go back and tweak it and make changes to it, then we can certainly do that. But first we have to have a starting point,” Strickland said.
A period for public comment was held, during which time IPC member Stan Humphries and Miriam Lancaster, both members of the committee, gave their input.
Both said the new ordinance was a compromise, and that it was looked at and approved of by a diverse group of nature advocates and people in the housing and construction market.
Murphy and Strickland both said that the two years spent working on the ordinance shouldn’t be wasted, and that sending it back to the committee would be a bad decision.
Ultimately, the commission denied a motion to approve the ordinance 2-5, with Murphy and Strickland in favor. A motion to send the ordinance back to the committee was approved 5-2, Murphy and Strickland against.
In other business, the commission approved a special use permit to allow farm-based activities such as farm-to-table dinners, education events, harvest celebrations and weddings on a 48-acre property off of Myers Hill Road, approved a conditional use permit for an expansion to exit 29 Self Storage, another conditional use permit to allow a restaurant in a house at 549 Ocean Blvd. on St. Simons, and decided to take a dispute between the county and a fire truck manufacturer to the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia.
The next meeting of the Glynn County Commission will be held at 6 p.m. May 18 in the Old Glynn County Courthouse, 701 G St. in Brunswick.