News | June 16, 2017

Camden Commissioners vote to delay decision on Cumberland Island rezoning

This week, the Camden County Commissioners voted unanimously in favor of granting the National Park Service’s request to slow down the process for rezoning 1,000 acres on Cumberland Island to allow for more residential development.

Cumberland Island Map

Cumberland Island is Georgia’s largest barrier island, largely overseen by the National Park Service. NPS has recently gotten involved in negotiations around proposals to further develop the island.

Most of Cumberland Island is owned or controlled by the National Park Service, as the entire island is within the National Seashore boundary, and portions are further protected by Wilderness Area designations. Part of the property that would be impacted borders the northern edge of the National Park Service’s Sea Camp campground and would be directly adjacent to one of the most popular visitor destinations in the park, which also features a ferry landing and visitor center.

After considerable pushback on a rezoning proposal that could lead to the construction of hundreds of new houses within the National Seashore with minimal setbacks, Camden County officials had previously requested that all parties involved attempt to reach a compromise by June 1st.

In a June 9th letter to the Chairman of the Camden County Board of Commissioners, Cumberland Island Superintendent Gary Ingram requested that the Commission allow additional time for negotiations, stating that “valuable progress” is being made in the ongoing discussions about proposed zoning and code changes for Georgia’s largest barrier island.

“As you know, the situation involves a difficult balance between private property concerns and the preservation of the character and purposes for which Cumberland Island National Seashore was established,” Ingram wrote. “The complexity is increased further by the number and diversity of the interests involved.”

“We believe these actions would help facilitate and define any potential changes to Camden County codes,” Ingram wrote. “The process for approving and implementing each of these potential solutions can be complex.”

Ingram said the National Park Service plans to investigate several options, including land exchanges and environmental easements. According to Acting National Park Service Director Mike Reynolds, finalizing an agreement could take up to a year.

We commend the Camden County Commission for recognizing the important perspective the National Park Service brings to this unique, complicated situation and for allowing more time to seek a possible solution,” said SELC attorney Megan Hinkle. “The National Park Service has played an integral role in creating and preserving the Cumberland Island National Seashore, and we look forward to continuing the conversation in the interest of this iconic island within our national park system.