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Friday, September 3, 2010 - 10:24am

Chatham County Considers 35 Ft. Marsh Buffer

The coast's most populous county could approve new rules about how close developers can build to marshland.

Chatham County could make it harder for some and easier for others to build next to the marsh.

Current local zoning says, if you have undeveloped land, you can build 25 ft. from the marsh.

That's in line with state regulations.

But land deemed developed had to follow a stricter 50 ft. buffer.

Determining what was developed and undeveloped made for a dizzying approval process, says Marrianne Heimes, who helped develop local zoning.

"It was very confusing, even to me, who had been working on this thing for five years," Heimes says. "I think that makes it fairer. The land use plan was not intended to be unfair to anybody. The only hope was to do a little marsh protection."

A Chatham County zoning board now proposes a uniform, 35 ft. buffer.

Planners hope the change will help the marsh by providing a filter for chemical run-off.

The board's proposal will go to a vote of the county commission.