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Turner v. Georgia River Network

ELR Citation: 45 ELR 20116
Nos. S14G1780, (Ga. Sup. Ct., 06/15/2015)

Georgia's highest court held that the state's 25-foot buffer zone for development projects along state waters does not apply to wetlands. The applicable statute does not require a buffer for state waters alongside banks without "wrested vegetation." The language at issue states, in pertinent part: "There is established a 25-foot-buffer along the banks of all state waters, as measured horizontally from the point where vegetation has been wrested...." By adding the phrase "as measured horizontally from the point where vegetation has been wrested," the state legislature expressly defined how the buffer "is established." Since the legislature offered no other method for the buffer to be established but for measuring it horizontally from the point of wrested vegetation, the buffer necessarily cannot be applied to state waters that are adjacent to banks without wrested vegetation. The case arose after environmental groups challenged a buffer variance granted to a developer, claiming that the variance failed to account for wetlands on the site.