Thursday, August 23, 2007

08/23 - Jekyll board chief answers Senator

Thu, Aug 23, 2007
The Brunswick News

The chair of the Jekyll Island Authority, criticized around the state for recent actions by the board, says he and others are just doing their jobs.
Authority board chair Ben Porter indicates in a letter released Wednesday that the board of the Jekyll Island Authority is only trying to do what by statute it is supposed to do, and that's to oversee the operations of the island and make the state-owned park financially fit and independent.
Porter said that and more when defending actions over the past sseveral months by the board in a written response dated Aug. 20 to questions asked by Sen. Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick.
Making the island attractive to tourists and those looking for a safe place to hold a convention is the whole purpose behind the new hotels planned on the island, including the $90 million hotel, condominium and convention complex proposed by Trammell Crow as a replacement for the aging Buccaneer.
That remains to be seen, said Chapman, who received a response to his concerns about development plans proposed on Jekyll Island in a letter from Porter Tuesday – three weeks after he asked for it.
"Trust but verify," Chapman said, citing former President Ronald Reagan. He said he needs to read and digest the four-page response carefully before commenting on its contents.
That may take as long as a week, he said.
"They had 20 days to answer me," said Chapman, whose letter to the board was dated July 30.
One of the primary questions Chapman wanted answered regarded the board's approval of a $10 million giveaway to Trammell Crow, a developer based in Texas.
Porter said in his letter to Chapman that the board merely agreed to give Trammell Crow the same deal it gave the Jekyll Hotel Club during its redevelopment.
"The only incentive being used in this project is an escalating rent formula to be paid to the JIA commensurate with the private investment and the lease term," Porter wrote. "The JIA has a history of doing this.
"The Jekyll Island Club rent structure provided for no rent during its first 10 years of operation. Years 11 and 12 are structured as a fixed rent. After that, 3 1/2 percent of gross revenues rent structure is charged."
Porter said the arrangement made it feasible for private investors to finance the $19 million necessary to renovate the original clubhouse.
The incentive pledged to Trammell Crow has been estimated to be worth $10 million.
"JIA used a similar approach...for the Buccaneer Hotel replacement development agreement to induce Trammell Crow to make a potential $90 million investment," Porter wrote. "JIA used the rent structure for the land lease as the primary negotiating tool to achieve important goals."
Porter said the urgency of the situation is apparent given the island's aging structures.
"I'm sure you are aware of the critical nature of hotel conditions on Jekyll Island," Porter wrote in his letter to Chapman. "We can no longer compete to bring in conference and convention business to produce revenues vital to provide infrastructure services on the island.
"Further, the survival of the many small businesses that operate on the island is totally dependent on visitor traffic."
He also addressed the affordability issue – another issue Chapman asked about.
Residents and others in the state claim the authority is interested in bringing only high cost hotels – a situation that would put vacations on the island out of reach of average Georgians.
"That is neither the plan nor the objective of the JIA," Porter wrote. "We intend that a variety of accommodations will be available to meet the needs of all Georgians."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The critical nature of beach erosion should be upper most in the board's mind and in each citizen's. Given a few bucks, {maybe 10 million}, our beaches could be saved. There will be much less sand and land to develop if the beach erosion is left unanswered. LKC.