Monday, July 30, 2007

07/30 - Jekyll's board hurling insults

Jekyll's board hurling insults
Mon, Jul 30, 2007
The Brunswick News

The future of Jekyll Island has been fought over in the halls and chambers of the Georgia General Assembly and now the battle is being waged among members of the board of the Jekyll Island Authority.
At the heart of the matter is a $10 million tax abatement package awarded to Trammell Crow, developers of a proposed $90 million, 540-room hotel-condominium complex with meeting space, restaurants and a spa to replace the current Buccaneer Hotel.

Members of the authority's board who strongly favor the incentive package accuse the one member who thinks it is a bad idea, Ed Boshears, of being a malcontent.
In an open letter to the community Friday, Ben G. Porter, chair of the authority board, refers to Boshears as a "disgruntled, publicity-seeking board member" because of his recent criticism of the tax abatement package. Other board members signing the letter included Steve Croy, Mike Hodges, Samuel B. Kellett Jr., Becky Kelley, Bob Krueger and Sybil Lynn.

Boshears voted for the package but has since spoken out against it.
In a letter to The News, Boshears said he opposes what appears to be a plan to eliminate affordable accommodations on Jekyll Island, which is owned by the state.
Jekyll Island's state charter requires it to be affordable to average Georgians.

"When I raised the issue of keeping affordable hotels like the Days Inn on Jekyll, another developer on the board stated, 'We're not building any Section 8 housing over here,'" Boshears said in his letter.

Section 8 is subsidized housing for low-income families.

"And (the developer added), let them (sic) stay in the campground," Boshears said. "This is the kind of mentality I have to contend with on the Jekyll board."

Boshears refutes Porter's claim that the former Republican state senator is seeking publicity.

"What Mr. Porter is really unhappy about is that I will not conspire with him to conceal the true facts from the people of Georgia," Boshears added.

The letter by Porter and other authority board members states that because the new hotel will pay more than $15 million total in tax and rent revenue during a 15-year period than the current lease, it's a "win-win" for everyone involved.
The group also contends in the letter that the additional tax revenue collected by the state and Glynn County over the same period of time – estimated at about $23 million in sales and property tax revenue – makes the abatement package worthwhile.

Boshears says the numbers don't tell the whole story.

"They're trying to claim that because a lot more money will be coming in, the abatement doesn't exist," Boshears said. "How are we going to pay our bills for the next 12 years?"

Bryan Thompson, mayor of Brunswick, a city which benefits from jobs generated by Jekyll Island, says that any ongoing improvement will be an asset to Brunswick and to the entire area.

"I've always viewed Jekyll (Island) and St. Simons (Island) as advantageous to downtown Brunswick," Thompson said.
Thompson said that for the past five or six years, most people who vacation on Jekyll or St. Simons islands spend at least one day in Brunswick.

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