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Tybee council: Condos denied

The Lazaretto Creek developers appear before a huge crowd to present a scaled-down project, but officials send them home unheard.

By Bret Bell
Savannah Morning News

TYBEE ISLAND – The crowd swelled into City Hall Thursday night, preparing to do battle with the developers who would put condos on Lazaretto Creek.
But in the end, there was no showdown. The city attorney ruled, and a slim council majority agreed, that the project had been denied during last month's confusing meeting.

If the applicants wanted to push forward with their scaled-back plan to build a 38-unit complex near the island's shrimping fleet, they would have to go through the whole process once again – planning commission, public hearing, site-plan approval.

And that suited the 125 islanders who packed council chambers to capacity just fine. They clapped and cheered after the vote was taken.

The small team of lawyers, architects and developers that represented Lazaretto Development LLC filed out. They never got a chance to show the new project renderings and side elevations they had rushed to finish before the meeting, and they never got to ask for permission to build 10 feet over city height limits, as opposed to the originally proposed 19 feet.

Project attorney Tom Mahoney Jr. pleaded with councilmen to not let crowd emotions sway their decision. Developers Paul Burns and George Long were not going to overwhelm Tybee with a tidal wave of condos, he said.

And unlike what some opponents have said, this is a good council that has consistently acted in the island's best interest.

"What we now have is unfinished business," Mahoney said. "It's important for (my clients) to determine what their rights are."

City Attorney Bubba Hughes replied with this: During the November meeting, Mayor Pro-tem Walter Crawford made a motion to approve the condo project. Nobody seconded him, so the petition was in essence denied without a vote.

If the developers wanted to submit the same project once again, they'd have to wait six months.

If they wanted to introduce a significantly different plan, they'd have to go through another public hearing. It's a complicated property anyway, he said, and much remains unresolved – a text amendment to combine uses, special approval for the condos.

"Council should not vote tonight because absence a public hearing, it's not worth the risk," he said.

Crawford, the developers' chief supporter, was absent from the meeting. With him gone, council voted 3-2 not to take it up again.

The developers, meanwhile, have some decisions to make. If they are to go through the same process again, they will face a planning commission that has already unanimously voted against the project, and a new, less development-friendly City Council in the new year.

"I'm not clear as to what the City Council expects us to present to the Planning Commission," Mahoney said. "I don't know what direction my clients will direct me to take."


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