A judge on Friday granted a stop work order on a road project on St. Simons Island near Fort Frederica.

“It is hereby ordered that defendants are temporarily enjoined from any further development, demolition or tree removal of any kind related to the Frederica Road Location Project until further order of the court, Superior Court Judge Roger B. Lane wrote Friday morning.

A hearing will be held at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 25.

“No more trees will be hitting the ground,” reported Dave Kyler of the Center for a Sustainable Coast. The Center, along with county resident Jeff Kilgore, requested the order Thursday.

Work on the Frederica Road on Sept. 22. Photo courtesy Jeremy Marquis Credit: Photo courtesy Jeremy Marquis

About six large trees, only two of which were in good shape, along with undergrowth, had been removed since work began in late September, according to Jeremy Marquis, a landscape architect on the project. The adjacent Christ Church Episcopal hired his St. Augustine-based firm of Marquis Latimer + Halback to assist in the $1.3 million plus project to reroute the road, for which the church is paying the bulk.

Marquis said the current alignment of the road with two blind curves poses a safety hazard to the church’s growing population of elderly members and young families, many of whom park across the road for services.

Jeremy Marquis. Photo courtesy Jeremy Marquis

His plan aims to remove as few healthy trees as possible, protect remaining trees and plant 21 new live oaks along the road and another 20 on the church property.

“I love Christ Church because that parish loves their trees; they take care of their trees,” Marquis said.

But the church’s involvement complicates the project on the county road, the Center for a Sustainable Coast explained in its brief to the court. A memorandum of understanding requires Christ Church to pay all project costs — estimated at  $1,324,740.38 — except $50,000 paid by Glynn County to construct the Stevens Road  intersection. This funding arrangement means the Corps of Engineers erred in providing a permit for the project, the Center for a Sustainable Coast argues. 

“Special Condition #1 in Regional General Permit 34  requires that transportation projects authorized thereunder must be funded by federal, state, or local  government,” the brief states. “However, the terms of the MOU clearly evidence that the Stevens Road  intersection is the only portion of the Project that can be authorized under RGP 34  because Defendant Christ Church is funding all engineering services, permit coordination,  easements, and cost overrun and funding all construction costs other than the Stevens Road  alignment/intersection.”

Glynn County’s tree ordinance  also requires its Tree Board to review any privately developed public roadway project. But the county hasn’t made sufficient appointments to its Tree Board, rendering it defunct. 

“So they never had a hearing of any kind to remove the trees, they never followed the ordinance and could not really follow the ordinance because they had killed the tree board that was supposed to render a judgment that the county considered,” Kyler said.

The Tide brings regular notes and observations on news and events by The Current staff.