News | January 5, 2017

SELC, partners challenge proposed subdivision on Georgia’s historic Cumberland Island

Conservation groups filed an appeal today of the Camden County Planning Commission’s decision to grant a hardship variance for a proposed subdivision on Cumberland Island, Georgia.

On behalf of the National Parks Conservation Association and St. Marys EarthKeepers, SELC 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 necessary standards for the variance.

As Georgia’s largest and southernmost barrier island, Cumberland Island is home to pristine maritime forests, undeveloped beaches, and extensive salt marshes, all of which contribute to its acclaimed biodiversity. Cumberland Island has remained largely protected from new residential development as a result of its National Seashore designation.

“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 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.”

Public outcry over the hardship variance approval has come from coastal residents and citizens all over the country. More than 780 individuals and groups, including SELC, submitted comments to the Planning Commission opposing the variance, and close to 10,000 other individuals have voiced concerns through online petitions.

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. Lumar’s property is 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.”