When an unlawful zoning amendment threatened Georgia’s historic Hogg Hummock community, the Southern Poverty Law Center and its co-counsel filed a complaint challenging the amendment in the Superior Court of McIntosh County.
Hogg Hummock, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is the last intact Gullah-Geechee community in the Sea Islands of Georgia. It is composed of direct descendants of enslaved people who were brought to Sapelo Island from West Africa in 1802. Many of the plaintiffs named in the complaint have held this land in their family for generations and plan on passing it to their children.
However, a zoning amendment approved by the McIntosh County Board of Commissioners would more than double the maximum size of Hogg Hummock homes from 1,400 square feet to 3,000 square feet. The change would encourage more development that would increase property valuations and taxes, creating a disproportionate impact on these descendants. Future construction would also be inconsistent with the current character and infrastructure of the community.
The complaint, filed in October 2023, describes how the zoning amendment violates the U.S. and Georgia constitutions by denying due process and equal protection to the community residents. The SPLC raised its concerns to the board of commissioners in a demand letter in August. It outlined how the zoning hearings and meeting process violated the state’s open meeting law, zoning procedures and the county’s civil rights obligations.
In 1994, the McIntosh Code of Ordinances created a historic district to allow continued use and activities of the community on Sapelo Island and to recognize its unique needs related to historic resources, traditional patterns of development, threat from land speculators and housing.