McIntosh County Manager makes statement concerning proposed
amendments to McIntosh County Zoning Ordinance
impacting Hog Hammock Community
McIntosh County Manager
Re: The Proposed Amendments to the McIntosh County Zoning Ordinance impacting the Hogg Hammock Community
Later today the McIntosh County Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing on the proposed HH (Hogg Hammock) amendments. After the public hearing, the Planning and Zoning Commission will have the opportunity to recommend action to the McIntosh County Board of Commissioners regarding those amendments. It’s important to remember that the McIntosh County Board of Commissioners will make the ﬁnal decision regarding the amendments. It is currently anticipated that the McIntosh County Board of Commissioners will consider the recommendation of the Planning and Zoning Commission at their regular meeting next Tuesday, September 12, 2023 at 5:00 p.m. at the McIntosh County Courthouse, Darien, Georgia.
The proposed amendments are a culmination of more than 10 years of discussion, investigation and litigation. The County has endured extensive investigation by the Fair Housing unit of the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The County was sued by various property owners in 2015 regarding zoning and other issues (Drayton, et al, v. McIntosh County, et al, U. S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Civil Action No. 1:15-cv-4272. The matter was later transferred to the Southern District of Georgia). That matter was settled in 2022 after many years of intense discovery.
The zoning issues in the litigation involved (almost exclusively) the maximum square footage requirement of our current zoning provisions. Currently, the maximum “heated and cooled” square footage allowed in Hogg Hammock is 1,400 square feet.
The maximum “heated and cooled” square footage was imposed in what appears to be a good faith eﬀort to control property values and deter the construction of large residences. Unfortunately, there was little consideration for the enforceability of this provision. In my estimation, for the last ten (10) years, the Planning and Zoning Oﬃce has received more complaints involving “heated and cooled” square footage in Hogg Hammock than any other issue. Needless to say, its literally impossible to regulate what an individual does inside of her or his house after the certiﬁcate of occupancy is issued. It is relatively easy to put an air conditioner window unit into an attic space, and put a space heater in the same area. When we’ve received complaints, some homeowners have refused to grant access to determine whether a violation has occurred. Nothing about this issue involves race, or the discriminatory application of the regulations. In fact, the most signiﬁcant changes to a house plan resulted from an African American individual complaining about another African American individual’s previously permitted house plan. The property owner cooperated with the county’s inspection request, and made substantial changes to his rooﬂine and ﬂoorplan.
The realization that policing the “heated and cooled” square footage is an impossibility, and the need for an alternative to the maximum square footage resulted in the current proposed amendments. In my humble opinion the maximum percent of lot coverage is the answer, and can be easily determined without the necessity of entry.
While I cannot speak for behaviors by my predecessors, I can tell you that currently McIntosh County spends more per capita on the residents of Sapelo Island than any other group. If current estimates are true (regarding the number of permanent residents in Hogg Hammock) those 35 individuals have, in the past few years, received a new ﬁre station and a recently remodeled community center. Additionally, the county is currently applying for a grant to enhance drainage in the Hogg Hammock area. No citizen on the mainland has the beneﬁt of such facilities.
All of this has been done with little or no help from the Federal and State governments. Governments that own a tremendous amount of the most valuable land within the county. In Georgia, county governments and the services that they provide are supported primarily by two sources: ad valorem property taxes and sales taxes. The State of Georgia holds more than 60,000 acres of beaches, riverfronts and other valuable properties in McIntosh County. The Federal Government holds more than 30,000 acres of similar properties. And neither government provides signiﬁcant ﬁnancial support.
The fact is this: McIntosh County carries the water for the entire State of Georgia and the Federal Government when it comes to conservation and preservation. This “carry” has greatly impacted our ability to provide services to our residents. Having said this, the proposed amendments to the Hogg Hammock zoning regulations are in the best interest of the residents of Hogg Hammock and all of the citizens of McIntosh County. These regulations provide the best protection that any county in Georgia can provide to similarly situated communities.