- County commissioners in Georgia face a lawsuit from Black residents in Hogg Hummock, a historic island neighborhood, over zoning adjustments.
- Zoning adjustments within the county doubled the dimensions of homes allowed, inflicting considerations about property tax will increase for Black residents.
- The lawsuit accuses county officers of violating zoning procedures, public assembly legal guidelines and residents’ constitutional rights.
County commissioners in Georgia are asking a choose to throw out a lawsuit by Black residents descended from slaves who concern new zoning adjustments will pressure them to promote their island houses in one of many South’s final surviving Gullah-Geechee communities.
Residents and landowners of the tiny Hogg Hummock neighborhood sued in October after McIntosh County commissioners voted to weaken zoning restrictions that for many years helped defend the enclave of modest houses alongside filth roads on largely unspoiled Sapelo Island.
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The zoning adjustments doubled the dimensions of homes allowed in Hogg Hummock. Black residents say bigger houses in the neighborhood will result in property tax will increase that they gained’t be capable of afford. Their lawsuit asks a choose to declare the brand new legislation discriminates “on the basis of race, and that it is therefore unconstitutional, null, and void.”
Attorneys for the county filed a authorized movement Nov. 20 asking a Superior Court choose to dismiss the lawsuit, noting that Georgia’s structure grants the state and native governments broad immunity from litigation.
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However, the Georgia Supreme Court has dominated that such safety from lawsuits, often known as sovereign immunity, is not absolute. And state voters in 2020 authorised a constitutional modification carving out restricted exceptions. It says governments could be sued after they break the legislation or violate the structure.
A listening to on the county’s authorized movement has been scheduled for Feb. 20.
The lawsuit by Hogg Hummock landowners accuses McIntosh County officers of violating Georgia legal guidelines governing zoning procedures and public conferences, in addition to residents’ constitutional rights to due course of and equal safety. It says county commissioners deliberately focused a largely poor, Black neighborhood to learn rich, white land patrons and builders.
McIntosh County officers denied wrongdoing of their authorized response filed in courtroom.
Regardless of whether or not the landowners’ case has benefit, it needs to be thrown out as a result of they “failed to demonstrate that sovereign immunity has been waived,” legal professional Paul Frickey wrote within the county’s authorized movement. He added that their lawsuit “is wholly silent on the topic.”
Attorneys for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of Hogg Hummock landowners, had no remark Thursday, spokesperson Lynda Hasberry mentioned.
About 30 to 50 Black residents nonetheless dwell in Hogg Hummock, based by former slaves who had labored the island plantation of Thomas Spalding. Descendants of enslaved island populations within the South turned often known as Gullah, or Geechee in Georgia. Their lengthy separation from the mainland meant they retained a lot of their African heritage.
Hogg Hummock, also called Hog Hammock, sits on lower than a sq. mile of Sapelo Island, about 60 miles south of Savannah. Reachable solely by boat, the island is usually owned by the state of Georgia.
The neighborhood’s inhabitants has shrunk in current a long time. Some households have bought land to outsiders who constructed trip houses. New building has triggered stress over how giant these houses could be.
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County officers authorised the bigger dwelling sizes and different zoning adjustments Sept. 12 after three public conferences held 5 days aside. Well over 100 Hogg Hummock residents and landowners packed these conferences to voice objections, however got only one probability to talk to the adjustments.
Despite vocal opposition from Black landowners, commissioners raised the utmost measurement of a house in Hogg Hummock to three,000 sq. ft of whole enclosed house. The earlier restrict was 1,400 sq. ft of heated and air-conditioned house.
Commissioners who supported the adjustments mentioned the prior measurement restrict primarily based on heated and cooled house wasn’t enforceable and didn’t give owners sufficient room for visiting kids and grandchildren to remain below one roof.
Outside of courtroom, Hogg Hummock residents are gathering petition signatures in hopes of forcing a particular election that might give McIntosh County voters an opportunity to override the zoning adjustments.