Private Property Zoning on
Cumberland Island is a place of legend. Its tidal marshes, undeveloped beaches and dunes, and lush maritime forests make it one of America's most spectacular and memorable barrier islands. Its protection remains one of the Georgia Conservancy's top priorities.
In August, a private landowner, Lumar LLC, requested a variance from Camden County for permission to divide an 87.51-acre tract of private property on Cumberland Island into 10 parcels. Because the lots will front an unpaved road, Cumberland Island’s Main Road, instead of a paved road, a land use variance is necessary to proceed. Such requests are common for rural landowners who wish to parcel their properties for use that is within county zoning requirements. The Camden County Planning Board approved this variance request during a public hearing on December 7 in Kingsland, Georgia.
The 87.51-acre tract owned by Lumar LLC is just north of Cumberland Island National Seashore’s Sea Camp and spans the east-west width of the island from beach to marsh. This area of private landholding has never been owned by the National Park Service during the more than for 40-year history of the National Seashore. Camden County zoning regulations currently regulate the land use activities of this tract and of other private holdings on Cumberland Island. The Lumar LLC tract is currently zoned by the county as a Conservation Preservation District which carries a number of restrictions regarding how the property owner can use the land.
One of the many zoning restrictions in a Conservation Preservation District is a prohibition of the installation or construction of any residential structure. The immediate concern of single-family homes being built on Cumberland Island is understandable, as the National Seashore is an incredible natural resource that deserves minimal disruption by human activity, both within Park boundaries and within private lands on the island.
We urge the Camden County Planning Board to enforce current zoning regulations as they pertain to Conservation Preservation Districts so as to ensure that the installation or construction of private residential structures will not be permitted in such districts on Cumberland Island.
The Purpose Statement for Cumberland Island states: “Cumberland Island National Seashore maintains the primitive, undeveloped character of one of the largest and most ecologically diverse barrier islands on the Atlantic coast, while preserving scenic, scientific, and historical values and providing outstanding opportunities for outdoor recreation and solitude.”
This current issue is a reminder to all that work to fully realize the purpose of Cumberland Island National Seashore is not complete, even 43 years after its establishment by the National Park Service.
It is vital that the Camden County Planning Board, the National Park Service, private landowners on Cumberland Island and the greater conservation community in Georgia work in concert to forward the vision and stated purpose of Cumberland Island National Seashore as a primitive island accessible to the general public for education, relaxation and passive recreation. This collaborative effort will not only build trust and understanding, but it is necessary to ensure that this wonderful natural resource is respected.