Group outlines benefits of development on St. Helena Island

Published: Sep. 22, 2023 at 4:13 PM EDT
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ST. HELENA ISLAND, Ga. (WTOC) - A new group that’s in favor of golf courses being built on the Pine Island Region of Saint Helena Island held a press conference Friday morning, saying the development could enhance the future of island residents.

“We’re actually tired of being spoken of as if the whole community believes one thing,” said Tade Oyeilumi with the Community Coalition Action Network of St. Helena.

That is one goal of the Community Coalition Action Network of Saint Helena. In their first press conference, the group outlined their beliefs, which focus on changing Beaufort County’s Cultural Protection Overlay to allow golf courses on Pine Island.

The Cultural Protection Overlay was adopted into Beaufort County’s zoning laws in 1999 to protect the Gullah-Geechee community and history on St. Helena Island. People opposed to development on Pine Island say that violating the protection overlay threatens to harm the Gullah heritage which has been on the island for generations.

Supporters of the Community Coalition say development would do the opposite, allowing for young residents on the island to have a future.

“You can’t maintain the culture outside of the people who carry the culture, that is a museum, and I don’t think that’s what we need, a museum of where you can see the folks that used to look like St. Helena. We need to be able to come on St. Helena in 2050 and see the folks that are living on St. Helena that were from the folks that used to live on St. Helena. How do you do that? You have to be able to stay here,” said Willie Turral, grew up on St. Helena.

At the press conference, the Community Coalition said Pine Island’s developer is going to build 166 homes on Pine Island instead of golf courses. Officials from the Coastal Conservation League, a group opposed to any development on Pine Island, says this is a negotiation tactic.

“It’s not a choice between a residential development on Pine Island and a golf resort on Pine Island, there’s actually a third option, which would benefit the whole community, and that would look like land protection with public access. A large residential subdivision is being leveraged in order to get what has been desired all along and that’s a golf resort on pine island,” said Jesse White, the South Coast Office Director of Coastal Conservation League.