Editorial: St. Simons Island deserves right to vote

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Posted: Wednesday, February 3, 2016 12:00 am

State Rep. Jeff Jones announced Monday his intentions to sponsor a bill that could lead to cityhood for St. Simons Island. On the immediate surface we in fact agree with Jones that this is the right course of action to allow any area its own opportunity to determine its own future.

Having control over development issues from density and infrastructure concerns to protecting trees are nonnegotiable points for the group, Citizens for St. Simons Island and Sea Island, pushing for the legislation. To this point it’s obvious the concerns of St. Simons Islanders – who want to preserve the character of their island – have not been met. Some positive actions have been taken by Glynn County government through the years to appease development concerns, including the creation of an Islands Planning and Zoning Board and most recently an extended moratorium.

These half measures have, in truth, been to no avail. With 26 days left in the General Assembly’s 2016 session, a strong call from some determined citizens still stands for St. Simons Island to have its right to vote and determine its own fate insofar as local government is concerned.

Giving the people of St. Simons Island the right to vote on this critical question seems like the next simple step. Despite that clarity, Rep. Jones and our other local legislators raise an important point to this whole debate. How does creating a new city of St. Simons Island and wrestling control of local policies and not insignificant revenues from Glynn County affect the entire community? The impact on the city of Brunswick and the rest of Glynn County needs to be very clear before anyone steps into a voting booth.

Here is just one question: Will a new city compete for sales tax dollars? A new city would be eligible for a portion of the Local Option Sales Tax. It would deserve it and ought to get a proportionate share. But if you think it’s hard for one city and a county to agree on what they consider a fair division of this 1 percent sales tax revenue, just wait until a second city is sitting at the negotiating table. Questions like this as well as others that could impact our entire community need to be fully studied and have concise answers.

This is not to be taken as opposition to an incorporation vote. It importantly underscores cautions expressed by our state legislative delegation.

These issues should be studied thoroughly before deciding whether to put a fourth government in Glynn County, when counting the Jekyll Island Authority, to a vote.

Everyone should know the pros and the cons, especially those who will be casting ballots. To that end, any enabling legislation that paves the way for an incorporation vote should include a legal requirement that a full impact study be completed that lessens the danger on unintended consequences. Let the people of St. Simons Island vote. Just make sure they fully know the stakes involved.


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