Comments on Coastal Permitting
director David Kyler testified at a public hearing called by Georgia
General Assembly Representative Jerry Keen, who represents District 174.
The reason for the hearing was to gather comments about delays
allegedly being incurred by permit applicants (mostly developers) under
the Coastal Marshlands Protection Act (CMPA). About forty people
attended the meeting, and of the ten who gave testimony, all but Kyler
Note: The Center for a Sustainable Coast has been represented by the
Southern Environmental Law Center in appealing two CMP permits:, Emerald
Pointe in Chatham County, and Man Head Marina in Glynn County. In both
these cases, the objective was to improve the standards used by the
state in reviewing the application.
Rep. Keen explained that, as justified, he intends to correct alleged
problems through legislation that would create a requirement for those
appealing a permit to post a bond to cover expected costs of the state
and permit applicant. Under this proposal, if an appeal were denied, the
appellant's bond would be used to pay for the legal fees, added staff
costs, and delays incurred by the state and the permit applicant.
Rep. Keen's opening remarks and claims made by various developers
asserted that permit appeals have been increasing in recent years.
Susan Shipman, director of the Coastal Resources Division (CRD) of the
Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR), reported that there had
been only eight active appeals when she became director in 2002, and
that two new appeals have been filed since then.
In his testimony, Mr. Kyler not only underscored the very limited number
of appeals actually being filed compared with the number of permits
issued, but also stressed the need for more complete review of permit
applications by CRD staff. Investing more in state review would reduce
the likelihood of future appeals, he reasoned, and could also speed up
the review process, helping to lessen further delays.
Referencing comments made by a local developer, Kyler noted that
adopting a reasonable processing fee charged to permit applicants could
help generate added funds required to pay for expanded review capacity.
“Compared with the cost of delays for permit review reported by
developers, such fees would be minuscule,” said Kyler, “and could help
both sides of this issue with faster and more complete review.”
These remarks paralleled a series of statements that Kyler has made on
the Center's behalf at recent permit hearings, where he urged the
Coastal Marshlands Protection Committee to raise revenues to cover
escalating permit review, monitoring, and enforcement costs by imposing
a proportionate application fee.
Kyler further elaborated to justify the need for greater environmental
- In proportion to the coastal region's growth, Coastal Resource
Division's scale of operation is barely keeping pace. Population has
doubled in the past 30 years and will double again to a million or more
by 2030. Though the state budget has increased, enforcement funds have
not kept up.
- The number of docks permitted in the past eight years alone is
1,688, over 200 annually on average. In just 3 years (1999, 2000 &
2001), over 10,000 homes were built in the coastal region, with various
adverse implications for natural resources.
- Moreover, as the density of development increases, analyzing
impacts of proposed projects becomes more complex due to the rising
potential for actions of one property owner to adversely affect the
interests of another.
Budgeting limitations and funding alternatives
Given Georgia's constitutional limitations on budgeting (no deficit
spending), and increasingly vocal complaints by developers about the
cost of delays caused by CRD review of applications for Coastal
Marshland Protection permits, it seems perfectly reasonable to adopt a
practice of imposing fees to assist in offsetting DNR costs of review
and enforcement. These fees should be based on proportionate costs
incurred by DNR in processing and enforcing permits (if approved) under
the CMP program.
Although fees would add slightly to the cost of development, this amount
would be minor compared with the cost of delays for some project
permits. One developer reported that he incurred over $750,000 in
interest due to delays in receiving his CMP permit for a project of 600
acres; a per-acre fee of $100 would generate $60,000, much lower than
his interest cost.
Whatever the amount of a proper fee, it would be negligible compared
with the cost of the land and structures built on proposed project
sites, adding little to the homebuyer's burden if the project goes
forward. Revenues generated by such fees could be used to expand
DNR/CRD staff, thereby reducing the time required to properly review
permits, set permit conditions, and enforce these conditions.
Another likely benefit is that with sufficient funding the public would
receive more consistent and thorough analysis of information needed to
enforce protection of coastal resources, through both permit review and
enforcement. If so, this approach could be expected to further reduce
the need to appeal permits, thereby avoiding legal costs and project
delays, assuming regulations are carefully followed. The state's
capacity to evaluate the effectiveness of permit conditions, and to
upgrade environmental protection by refining such conditions, could also