Commissioners approve controversial zoning change for Sapelo Island

Published: Sep. 12, 2023 at 6:08 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 12, 2023 at 11:13 PM EDT
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SAPELO ISLAND, Ga. (WTOC) - The McIntosh County Board of Commissioners approved a controversial zoning change for Sapelo Island during Tuesday’s meeting.

Residents of the island, which is only accessible via ferry, are concerned the zoning change will drive up property taxes and threatens to erase the history of the island.

During public meetings leading up to the vote, the zoning board proposed changes to the ordinance of lowering the newly allowed home size and removing talk of golf courses being added to the island.

The ordinance passed in a 3-2 vote.

Tuesday night was the first night that WTOC could show you one of these meetings. The county turned our cameras away at previous meetings but we reached out to the state for support and the county allowed us to record what happened on the inside Tuesday night.

“You ought to pat yourself on the back, for coming out and taking your time to stand up for your people, that the ancestors created the land and purchased for us to even be there in the first place.”

The people of Sapelo Island say they leave disappointed but not broken.

‘We are gonna do whatever we gotta do because this is far from over. This is far from over.”

The McIntosh County Commission had a split vote on whether or not to move forward with a new zoning ordinance allowing homes to be built that are nearly two times what currently sits on the island. Ultimately, Commission Chairman David Stevens broke the tie and voted to move forward with the ordinance.

In yesterday’s work session, Commissioner Roger Lotson said that he was hoping to find a compromise between the county, and those on the island. However, the request to postpone the vote so the commission could have more time to discuss, was shot down within the first few motions of the meeting.

“What they voted on today was unjust and unfair to the descendants of the island,” said Commissioner Lotson.

Within minutes of exiting the courthouse, petitions began to be passed around, racking up over 80 names within the hour.

“I believe that we will prevail, and I believe that the right will prevail, this is not, the end,” said Lillian Grant-Baptiste.

WTOC did attempt to speak to the chairman after the meeting to ask him about his vote, but he was escorted away from the courthouse by two sheriff deputies.