MCINTOSH COUNTY, Ga. (WSAV) — Several state representatives are pushing back against McIntosh County’s proposed zoning ordinance that would allow developers to purchase large land tracts in the historic Hog Hammock district on Sapelo Island — a predominately Gullah-Geechee community.
Hog Hammock was one of fifteen African-American saltwater Gullah Geechee settlements on Sapelo Island. Many members of the community are descendants of formerly enslaved African-American.
Georgia State Rep. Ruwa Romman posted on X earlier this morning urging Georgians to stand behind the community.
The proposed amendment would allow companies to build larger homes in a community that is mostly comprised of cottages no bigger than 1,400 sq. ft. The new ordinance would allow structures over four times that size. Ultimately, it would raise the cost of living, according to the Georgia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
CAIR also released a statement about the county’s proposed changes saying, in part:
“The Georgia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations is calling on you to send a message to the McIntosh County Commission and demand that they stop plans to remove zoning protections for the Gullah Geechee community in Hogg Hummock, one of the last intact Gullah Geechee communities in the U.S., and make the process more accessible to the Hummock’s residents.
McIntosh County is proposing zoning changes that would allow developers to purchase large tracts of land in the historic Hogg Hummock district where the Gullah Geechee have lived for centuries. This seemingly mundane change poses an enormous threat to the community and their way of life.”CAIR Georgia
Another main concern about the proposed changes was that the meeting to discuss the ordinance was scheduled at the same time as the last daily ferry trip back to the island, which would have made it more difficult for residents to access the meeting. However, the Department of Natural Resources has adjusted the time to better accommodate residents.
The current ordinance also includes a statement about the county being held accountable for protecting the history of the land as well as preserving the culture so that the indigenous people are not forced to leave the island. However, the proposed changes remove indigenous people entirely only stating that the island community will be a “healthy environment for several different types of dwellings and small commercial establishments to support this island community.”
According to the Associated Press, dozens of supporters attended the meeting Thursday night. More than 30 people spoke out at the meeting on Thursday night. AP also said:
“More than 30 people spoke out against the proposal over two hours, the county zoning board made some hasty changes aimed at appeasing island residents and then voted to send the amended ordinance to McIntosh County’s elected commissioners. The five-member commission has the final say, and could choose to vote on the original zoning proposal that rattled island residents when it meets next week.”Russ Bynum, AP
AP tells us that McIntosh County officials made some “hasty changes” in an attempt to appease angry attendees and then ultimately voted to send the amended ordinance to McIntosh County’s elected commissioners.