A couple of items stick out from Tuesday’s Glynn County Commission work session and Islands Planning Commission meetings that may have implications for county residents.
It is no secret that interest in any development on St. Simons Island is currently at a peak. As density continues to increase, development proposals continue to pour in and traffic becomes more and more congested, interest will only continue to rise.
So it was a positive when the planning commission decided to allow regular citizen comment periods at its meetings.
What was not positive were suggestions made during the county work session that because the workload for only one planner and a director of community development, there should be only one planning commission meeting per month — alternating between the mainland and islands planning commissions.
The suggestion was made because, despite the efforts of Community Development Director Pamela Thompson, there are still two planning positions and a spot for a planning manager open at the county offices.
The problem here is two-fold.
The first problem is the most obvious. Having just one full-time planner means the roughly 200 or so projects that come across her desk simply cannot be completed on time. The answer Thompson seeks — and county commissioner Peter Murphy agrees with — is to have fewer planning commission meetings so the planning department has more time to properly evaluate project proposals.
That leads to the second problem, one that was evident at Tuesday’s Islands Planning Commission meeting. With so much to discuss — including a countywide tree ordinance — the meeting lasted roughly five hours. Public meetings that are truly accessible to the public cannot start at 6 p.m. and end around 11 p.m. That limits the public’s ability to truly sit in and listen to an entire meeting.
The better answer is to fill the empty positions — and soon. But Thompson said she has not been able to find anyone willing to take the jobs.
This makes us wonder what has made those positions so difficult to fill. Is it a cultural problem carried over from previous department directors? Do planners not want to come here because of the intense interest and scrutiny by the public?
Whatever it is, the problem needs to be solved quickly. As it is, more and more money keeps getting paid what shakes out to more than $100 per hour for a consultant who is only part time.
Filling the planning department must be a priority of county leadership. If it is not, and we continue in the direction we are going, it may have real implications on the economy of Glynn County, just as real progress after the Great Recession was becoming evident.
That would be a shame.