Sea Island Spit Dispute Settled: Land Conservation Easement will Protect 80 Acres
Joint Press Release - March 17, 2015
Sea Island Spit Dispute Settled - Land Conservation Easement Will Protect 80 acres
Environmental Groups Reach Agreement with Sea Island Company - Development on 8 Lots to Proceed in Exchange for Conservation Easement and Other Conservation Measures
Close to 80 acres at the southern end of Sea Island will go into a conservation easement under the terms of a settlement agreement that ends a dispute between the Altamaha Riverkeeper, Center for a Sustainable Coast, Georgia Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, and Sea Island Company.
As opposed to addressing this dispute in the courts, the parties have agreed that Sea Island Company may proceed with its planned development of 8 lots on 7.3 acres (the "Cloister Reserve") while achieving conservation objectives through implementation of the following:
- Creating a conservation easement that will forever protect the remaining 90% of the undeveloped land at the south end of Sea Island, including the "Spit," from development.
- Providing funding to the environmental groups over a five year period so they can independently monitor and evaluate any environmental effects of the Cloister Reserve and any possible beach renourishment project, including a possible shoreline stabilization project, on the conserved land and the adjacent marsh, shore, and waters, while preserving the right to monitor and challenge such a project.
- Allowing for independent monitoring of all construction and land disturbing activities related to the development of the Cloister Reserve to insure compliance with the county approved development plans and the jurisdictional lines established by DNR for the protection of the marsh, beach, and dunes under the Coastal Marshlands Protection Act and the Shore Protection Act.
- Implementing plans that will assure the natural flow of stormwater from the Cloister Reserve including forgoing curbs and gutters on any roads, using permeable materials for parking areas and driveways, and utilizing other design features to protect the adjacent marsh from potentially harmful stormwater runoff.
- Requiring lighting restrictions for the benefit of beach-nesting sea turtles.
- Imposing certain restrictions on pets to protect native species from non-native predation and harassment.
- Providing for limited public seasonal birding excursions on the Spit.
"We are pleased with this settlement that will protect 90% of the Spit from future development by placing it into a conservation easement, requiring compliance with current environmental protection laws, and providing significant funding for environmental monitoring" said Steve Caley, Legal Director for Atlanta-based GreenLaw who represents the environmental groups.
The environmental groups strenuously objected to the development from the outset, when the development was announced more than a year ago. However, Glynn County took the position that Sea Island Company had met all planning and zoning requirement s and was authorized to proceed.
Caley added: "This has been a hard-fought battle made more difficult by Glynn County's actions in this matter and changes in the law that occurred after we began this fight. As with any settlement, neither side got everything it wanted. However, on balance, we believe this is a very good settlement, and we commend Sea Island Company for meeting us at least half-way."
Scott Steilen, President of Sea Island Company, said: "Sea Island is pleased to continue its record of more than eight decades of environmental stewardship of its land by placing the southernmost tip of Sea Island under a perpetual conservation easement. The Cloister Reserve project will result in a low-impact development of eight single family homes that we are confident, based on the advice of our experts, will not adversely impact the adjacent beach, marsh and tidal waters."
Jen Hilburn, the Altamaha Riverkeeper noted that "as part of the Altamaha Delta, the Sea Island Spit, of which 90% will now be protected in perpetuity, is critically important habitat to sea turtles, diamondback terrapins, shorebirds, and waterbirds. Understanding the hydrogeology and ecological effects of development adjacent to natural/protected areas, and their impact on sand sharing systems such as found along the Georgia coast, will help community leaders make more informed decisions when it comes to land use planning priorities to better protect our wildlife, our coastline, and our communities."
"Given the circumstances, we are thankful for the opportunity to reach a mutually agreeable outcome that provides significant benefits to the residents of coastal Georgia and Glynn County," said David Kyler, with the Center for a Sustainable Coast. "The environmental study supported by this project is urgently needed to gain better understanding about the consequences of shorefront development."
And Clay Davidson with the Georgia Chapter of Surfrider Foundation had this to say: "We are pleased that Sea Island Company has come to a common sense solution to preserve this delicate piece of coastal land. By protecting 90% of the Spit in perpetuity , and granting funding for environmental monitoring and study, the settlement will provide the environmental community as a whole, and the Surfrider Foundation, enhanced knowledge and insight into the dynamic coastal marsh system, and how to better protect it for generations to come."
The conservation easement will be held and managed by the St. Simons Land Trust. Under applicable law, a conservation easement must be held by a qualified private land conservation organization or the government. The parties to the settlement agreement unanimously agreed that the St. Simons Land Trust, with its record of stewardship in the area, was the best choice to hold this easement.
Steve Caley, GreenLaw Legal Director (404) 659-3122, ext. 222; 678-595-8828(c)
Jen Hilburn, Altamaha Riverkeeper (912) 441-3908
Dave Kyler, Center for a Sustainable Coast (912) 506-5088
Clay Davidson, Surfrider Foundation Georgia Chapter (323) 369-0544
Jim Gilbert, Sea Island Company (912) 634-3976