Groups Challenge Proposed Cumberland Island Development
Woodbine, GA—Conservation groups filed an appeal today of the Camden County Planning Commission’s decision to grant a hardship variance for a proposed development on Cumberland Island.
On behalf of the National Parks Conservation Association and St. Marys EarthKeepers, the Southern Environmental Law Center is challenging the Planning Commission’s approval of the hardship variance requested by Lumar, LLC to subdivide an 87-acre tract into ten lots for private home construction, charging that Lumar’s application fails to meet the standards necessary for granting a hardship variance.
As Georgia’s largest and southernmost barrier island, Cumberland Island is home to pristine maritime forests, undeveloped beaches and extensive salt marshes. Cumberland Island has remained largely protected from new residential development as a result of its designation as a National Seashore.
"Cumberland Island is truly the crown jewel of Georgia’s barrier island system, and consequently should not be treated like any other run-of-the-mill property," said Southern Environmental Law Center Senior Attorney, Bill Sapp. "We would welcome the opportunity to work with all parties at the table to seek a long-term solution, with the goal of protecting the natural beauty and historic character for which the Cumberland Island National Seashore is known and beloved."
Lumar’s property is an inholding within the legislated boundaries of the Cumberland Island National Seashore and is zoned under the Conservation Preservation (CP) classification. According to the Camden County Development Code, the purpose of the CP district is “to discourage encroachment of uses capable of destroying the undeveloped character of the CP district.”
Internationally recognized for its primitive and undeveloped character, the island attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year, making the island economically as well as ecologically important to Camden County and its residents.
Public outcry over the hardship variance approval has come from coastal residents and citizens all over the country. Over 780 individuals submitted comments to the Planning Commission opposing the variance, and close to 10,000 other individuals have voiced concerns through online petitions.
"Citizens want to see Cumberland Island’s wild, natural state protected, and are concerned that this variance would lead to a substantial detriment to that natural state," said Alex Kearns of St. Marys EarthKeepers. "If this hardship variance was to stand, it could set a bad precedent in encouraging future development on this iconic island."
Lumar’s property borders the northern edge of the National Park Service’s Sea Camp campground, and is directly adjacent to one of the most popular visitor destinations in the park, which features a ferry landing, visitor center and campground. If the proposed subdivision were allowed, structures could be built within full view of the marsh, the beach, the main road and the parallel trail.
"The Cumberland Island National Seashore is a treasured component of our national park system," said Don Barger, Southeast Regional Director of the National Park Conservation Association. "It is vital that we do all we can to preserve the natural and historic elements of this rare and idyllic place for current and future generations."
About Southern Environmental Law Center:
The Southern Environmental Law Center is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. With nine offices across the region (Charlottesville, VA; Chapel Hill, NC; Atlanta, GA; Charleston, SC; Washington, DC; Birmingham, AL; Nashville, TN; Asheville, NC; and Richmond, VA), SELC is widely recognized as the Southeast’s foremost environmental organization and regional leader. SELC works on a full range of environmental issues to protect the South’s natural resources and the health and well-being of all the people in our region. www.SouthernEnvironment.org
About St. Marys EarthKeepers:
St. Marys EarthKeepers is a nonprofit organization headquartered in St. Marys, Georgia. Its mission is to protect, preserve, and enhance the environment of St. Marys and the surrounding areas. www.stmarysearthkeepers.com
About National Parks Conservation Association:
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org