In December, 2020, the law firm of Relman Colfax announced the settlement of a federal Fair Housing Act case brought by 54 property owners and residents of Sapelo Island against the State of Georgia and other state officials and entities. The Plaintiffs are the descendants of the Gullah-Geechee slaves whose families have lived on Sapelo Island for centuries.
The residents filed their lawsuit in 2015 alleging that the State discriminated against them on the basis of race by providing inequitable services on Sapelo Island. Specifically, the Plaintiffs alleged that they were discriminated against in the provision of funding for programs and activities and that the State Defendants engaged in conduct that threatened the preservation of Sapelo Island’s culture and history in favor of white developers. The Plaintiffs also alleged that the State-run ferry, the sole means of access to Sapelo Island, was inaccessible to people with disabilities and run on a schedule that made it practically impossible to live on the island while working or in school.
The settlement includes broad relief to the Plaintiffs. The State Defendants paid $750,000 to the Plaintiffs to settle their monetary claims and are required to complete substantial physical remediations to make certain facilities accessible to people with disabilities, the monetary value of which are estimated to be several million dollars. The settlement further requires the State Defendants to undertake other broad relief, including conducting annual meetings to discuss Sapelo Island’s history and culture, developing a process for receiving plans for the use of certain lands on Sapelo Island, implementing improvements to the water system on Sapelo Island, as well as other requirements.
More from this Newsletter Issue: Winter 2021
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