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Beware on Georgia's coast
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In a recent column, Dick Yarbrough describes an ill-advised project proposed by Sea Island Acquisition on the south end of Sea Island. We’d like to share some supporting details and background on this issue.
In January, Glynn County’s Islands Planning Commission approved the plat review of a project for developing eight residential lots on a rapidly eroding sand spit on the south end of Sea Island along Gould’s Inlet.
Approval came despite extensive, well-documented testimony against it from experts and representatives of two environmental groups — Altamaha Riverkeeper and Center for a Sustainable Coast — being represented by GreenLaw, a not-for-profit environmental-law group.
Highlights of these concerns are:

Rapid erosion
Erosion rates on this part of Sea Island are at least three times greater than the average along Georgia’s coast. In the past decade, at least 100 feet have been taken by the ocean from this shoreline, and at the current rate of erosion, all high land on much of the project site could be gone within 25 years.

Legal issues  
Approval of the project plat was tainted by multiple, documented violations of zoning rules and procedures. The planning commission was just plain wrong about the legal requirements of the ordinance and erred in sanctioning this project.
The 2004 concept plan authorized for this planned-development project did not include any development past the condos that already have been built on the spit, a fact SIA now is ignoring in an effort to gain unwarranted legitimacy for the project.

Designated high-risk area
There’s a ban on federally-backed insurance and disaster relief on the spit because it’s been classified as an area unfit for development due to its extreme risk from erosion, flooding and storm surge.
The spit is the only area of Sea Island so classified.  

Hazardous to others
Coastal geologists advise that development of the spit will disrupt the sand-sharing system and add to erosion factors, which will jeopardize developed beachfront areas on neighboring St. Simons Island.
For reasons unknown, the IPC refused to address substantial harm to the public caused by this kind of project, including hazards to public safety, valuable fish and wildlife, and neighboring waterways and marshes — all essential to surrounding quality of life as well as the economy.
In rationalizing approval of this reckless project, the IPC chairman stated that the public should rest assured that Sea Island Acquisition essentially was saying, “Let the buyer beware” as a way to cover the risks of building on a natural feature as unstable as the spit.
Given the takeaway message made by the planning-commission chairman, those attending the meeting wondered if the county should start posting signs for newcomers, saying “Welcome to Glynn County, Ga.— where home buyers should beware!”
Not only should buyers beware, but also should citizens and taxpayers — because if development of a sand spit is officially sanctioned, other equally reckless coastal projects are likely to follow.  

Caley is with GreenLaw, Kyler is with the Center for a Sustainable Coast and Hilburn is coastkeeper for Altamaha Riverkeeper.

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