Sapelo Island is a historic island located off the southeastern Georgia coast—less Martha’s Vineyard and more down home year-round style, residents of Sapelo Island trace their roots generations back to the slave descendants that settled there since the Civil War ended. Located on Sapelo Island is a tiny community called Hog Hammock, where about 60 members are fighting a 300% tax increase on their properties. The residents were naturally appalled, and the fight is under way. Sapelo Island’s main defense rests in the preservation of the last Gullah-Geechee community in the south.
Sapelo Island and its residents breathed a brief sigh of relief as the Georgia Senate awarded the tiny island a temporary reprieve from the tax increase. The Gullahs, or Gullah-Geechees, most of whom live on tiny plots of land in motor homes, feared that they would be driven from their historic home on the island. As the Creole-speaking descendants of African slaves, their lives have been entrenched there for more than two centuries.
While McIntosh County officials maintained that the land has long been undervalued and ordered a reassessment, several independent tax assessors have pointed out a unique clause in the county ordinance on the development of Sapelo Island. The ordinance prohibits clearly any “land value increases which could force removal of the indigenous population.”
Sapelo Island is a living and breathing piece of history that faces a quick and swift removal if the new tax assessment in August repeats the current hike. The 50-person community that inhabits the 400-acre island would most likely be forced to sell their property to developers, and leave the island to turn into a classic Southern resort town a la Hilton Head. For now, Sapelo Island residents and their backers are digging in to fight the good fight, and try to “save a piece of history.”