Views on STVRs, Orange Crush discussed by Tybee Island City Council candidates

John Branigan, Barry Brown, Joey Goralczyk, Jack Long, James Lucas, Tony Ploughe, Nick Sears and Katherine Williams are all vying for city council seats.

Credit: Courtesy of Forever Tybee

Combined ShapeCaption
John Branigan, Barry Brown, Joey Goralczyk, Jack Long, James Lucas, Tony Ploughe, Nick Sears and Katherine Williams are all vying for city council seats.

Credit: Courtesy of Forever Tybee

Eight City Council candidates vying for three, four-year term seats participated in a forum Monday night to a packed room of Tybee Island voters.

Moderated by Susan Catron, managing editor of The Current, the candidates answered rounds of questions, submitted by Tybee Islanders, about the city's hot topics including short term vacation rentals, large unsanctioned events such as Orange Crush and quality of life issues.

The candidates vying for the three seats this year include incumbents Barry Brown and Jay Burke III, who couldn't attend the event, John Branigan and Kathryn Williams, former councilmembers, Joey Goralczyk, Jack Long, James Lucas, Tony Ploughe and Nick Sears.

The forum, hosted by Forever Tybee and the League of Women Voters of Coastal Georgia., began with each candidate giving an opening statement. Information about the candidates can be found on Forever Tybee's website in the Tybee Island Voter Guide.

Credit: Courtesy of Forever Tybee

Credit: Courtesy of Forever Tybee

Each candidate was given three minutes to answer a question. During a lightning round where each candidate was asked the same question and had one minute to answer, Catron asked if they each supported the current STVR ordinances, and if they would change anything.

The most recent ordinance passed for STVR's was passed in October to ban new STVR's in the islands residential neighborhoods.

"I support the majority of the ordinances that are currently on the books," Williams said. "As I indicated earlier, one change that I would promote would be to end the ability to transfer permits when the property transfers."

Sears said that he agrees with Williams about not letting the permits to linger on, but he supports the ordinances in place, but only because there isn't a better one.

"The present ordinance, or the one that was passed in October, has not even been enforced," Sears said. "If it was enforced, according to its original terms, not as amended, it would have reduced the STVRs in residential areas as much as 200, but the city simply hasn't done it."

Ploughe said that half of the houses in a residential area is a reasonable maximum number of short-term rentals.

"If we wanted to make it smaller, I think we needed to do it ten years ago," Ploughe said. "I don't want to take anybody's short-term rental licenses away. I would like to have less regulations and more positive influence for our city, and let's figure out ways to encourage long term rentals, if that's what we want."

The next lightning round was focused on Orange Crush, the festival that brought 50,000 people to the barrier island earlier this year, putting a strain on its resources. Catron asked the candidates what actionable steps they would take to make sure the island doesn't experience a repeat.

Branigan said if elected, he would work with the council to direct the city manager, to ensure that they had the maximum law enforcement presence out there and directing the city attorney to file a lawsuit against anyone who they can determine is advertising the unpermitted events.

"We can't stop Orange Crush from coming," Goralczyk said. "I've been here 16 years. It's always going to show up, and in years past we've been better prepared. This year was a botched job. I'm not sure exactly who was responsible for it, but it was a botched job. We've always had extra help. We need to take the handcuffs of our police force and let them do their job and give them everything we can to help them do their job."

Lucas had a bit of a different approach. He said that council should be working hand-in-hand with the coordinators of Orange Crush to make the event as pleasant as possible for everyone involved.

"But the most important thing in my opinion is to get people to safety," Lucas said. "I think we should work with the hospitals and try to set up a satellite emergency room on this island somewhere, and definitely have helicopters ready to get people off."

The last lightning round was about how council should work to build a relationship for good governance, and the role council should play in the management of the city manager.

One of the incumbents, Brown, said that there needed to be a better evaluation system for the city manager, and council members need to be able to speak with each other.

"We don't talk to each other in anything bigger than a one-on-one because more than three makes a quorum, but you've got to be able to talk to each other, and if they're persistent on comprehending and not really going along with the majority of council, that needs to be addressed," Brown said.

Long said that he thinks the city council as a whole should be directing the city manager and their job, not any single city council member.

The forum ended with closing statements from all candidates. The next forum for special election candidates vying for one, two-year term seat will be at 7 p.m., Oct. 2 at the Tybee Public Safety Building, also moderated by Catron.

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Views on STVRs, Orange Crush discussed by Tybee Island City Council candidates


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