Saturday, July 28, 2007

"07/23 - 'Sweetheart deal' alleged at Jekyll Plum for developer: Critics say state's $10 million rent break on such valuable land is absurd."

"07/23 - 'Sweetheart deal' alleged at Jekyll Plum for developer: Critics say state's $10 million rent break on such valuable land is absurd." > Opinion


Jekyll Island: Responses to "'Sweetheart deal' alleged at Jekyll," Page One, July 23, "Jekyll deal sadly a steal," Editorial, July 24, and "Jekyll revival to boost —- not rob —- state," @issue, July 25

Charge developers for crown jewel spot

I am certain that the Jekyll Island State Park Authority's business plan for redevelopment is "perfectly rational," as described by Ben Porter, chairman of the board. Except when it isn't.

In this case, there was never a more perfect place than Jekyll to charge impact or infrastructure fees for the right to develop on this jewel of an island. Instead of giving away $10 million in incentives, the authority should be charging Trammell Crow $10 million.

Incentives unwarranted

So Ben G. Porter, chairman of the Jekyll Island State Park Authority, believes that Trammell Crow Co. and other developers need incentives to build hotels, condos and restaurants on the island? Since when has a developer turned down the chance to develop prime beachfront property?

The developers should have to pay for the privilege! That Ed Boshears recanted his support of the "sweetheart deal" for Trammell Crow Co. does not mitigate his or other board members culpability. As stewards of the island, they have the responsibility to make sure that before they cast a vote on any issue, they have thoroughly researched its impact. One has to wonder who, besides the developer, will profit from this deal.


Builder, not citizens, will enjoy low rates

People should know that the $10 million "incentive" given by the Jekyll Island State Park Authority to the Trammell Crow Co. to seal the deal for replacing one of Jekyll's oceanfront hotels will ultimately come out of the pockets of the island's visitors. They, after all, are the ones who will be paying to stay at Trammell Crow's pricey hotel complex, where peak season nightly room rates will average $250.

Furthermore, giving away $10 million of revenue to draw Trammell Crow to a property that is a developer's dream is at odds with Section 12-3-271 of the Georgia Code, which states that "all revenues arising out of the operation of Jekyll Island State Park shall be used by the authority for the sole purpose of beautifying, improving, and developing the park at the lowest rates reasonable and possible for the benefit of the people of the State of Georgia."

In the case at hand, the "lowest rates reasonable" mandate seems to have been applied to the benefit of Trammell Crow, not the people of Georgia.

DAVID EGAN, Jekyll Island

On the road to exclusivity?

While most Georgians are looking the other way, their island is drifting out of reach. The editorial on Jekyll Island was right on the mark. I attended the July meeting of the Jekyll Island State Park Authority, and did my best to address affordability concerns to that group in my allotted three minutes. Having visited the island frequently over three decades with my family and with church groups, I fear that upscale development plans will limit the ability of thousands of Georgians to return to the island.

Will input from average citizens of Georgia impact the decisions of the authority, an appointed body charged to serve the public interest? Will Jekyll Island remain available to the average Georgian? Or will this state property, by virtue of rising prices, become the exclusive playground of the rich?

The Rev. Greg Lowery is pastor of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Cadwell.

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