Friday, July 27, 2007

07/19 - Jekyll committee to oversee island sans Chapman

The Brunswick News
July 19, 2007
Local News


Sen. Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick, represents Jekyll Island in the Senate, but he won't represent it on the Senate Jekyll Island Oversight Committee.

The Senate leadership overlooked him for membership to the committee.

But that's OK, he says.

"That doesn't bother me," Chapman said.

"I don't want to second guess the purpose or the reason I wasn't appointed to it."

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, a Republican like Chapman, named senators to that and two other Senate oversight committees, but only the Jekyll Island Oversight Committee does not include the senator from the home district.

Cagle, who announced the appointments Monday, even named a Democrat - Sen. Robert Brown of Macon - to the Georgia Music Hall of Fame Authority Overview Committee. The music hall is in Macon.

A number of senators from Atlanta and surrounding communities were named to the Georgia World Congress Center Overview Committee - Sens. Don Balfour, R-Snellville, Judson Hill, R-Marietta, Kasim Reed, D-Atlanta, Bill Hamrick, R-Carrollton, and Jeff Mullis, R-Chicamaugua. The World Congress Center is in Atlanta.

Cagle appointed Sen. Tommie Williams, R-Lyons, who formerly represented Jekyll Island in the Senate, and Sens. Chip Pearson, R-Dawsonville, and Ross Tolleson, R-Perry, to the Jekyll Island Oversight Committee. Sen. Eric Johnson, R-Savannah, who also once represented Jekyll Island, was named ex-officio member of the board of Jekyll Island Authority.

"That's (Cagle's) authority, his choice, to make," Chapman said.

The appointment comes at the heels of Chapman's successful fight against House Bill 214 this past session of the General Assembly that would have opened the state-owned island to greater commercial development. Chapman got much of what he wanted, though not all. He was unable to remove from the measure a provision that allowed the addition of new residences on the island.

Chapman said he will continue to speak for Jekyll Island even though he's not on the committee.

"Not being on that committee will not ... diminish what I will try to do for my district," he said. "I'm still going to pay close attention. Not being a committee member does not prevent me from attending meetings.

"That's the attitude I've taken. Regardless of the fact that I may not be appointed to a committee, if it's something of interest to me, of importance, then I'm still going to be close to it."

Jaillene E. Hunter, Cagle's communications director, said Chapman will continue to play an important role in the island's future.

"Sen. Chapman is dedicated to the needs of his district and we are in close communication with him and will continue to converse on this important issue," Hunter said. "Jekyll Island is an important resource to our entire state and we wanted the committee to reflect that diversity.

"We have full confidence in the committee members and our door is always open to Sen. Chapman."

07/24 - Jekyll development deal raises questions

Jekyll development deal raises questions
July 24, 2007
Local News


The Brunswick News

A Jekyll Island Authority member who voted with other board members to give a developer a nearly $10 million abatement on rent is now questioning why the board did it.

The board approved the reduction July 9, but now Ed Boshears is at a loss to understand why that happened, especially when nearly $20 million is needed in repairs to the Jekyll Island Historic District.

"And there's probably another $20 (million) to $30 million in other repairs," Boshears said.

The abatement is an incentive the board opted to give Trammel Crow, the lead managing member of Jekyll Crow Hotel Partners. Trammel Crow is investing about $90 million to demolish the Buccaneer Beach Resort on Jekyll Island and rebuild a 426-room hotel and conference facility on the site.

Private developers pay lease and other fees to the authority, which manages the state-owned land.

Boshears said Jekyll Ocean Oaks, the group rebuilding on the site of the former Jekyll Island Holiday Inn, was put through the wringer when getting its lease agreement from the authority.

"We spent a long time negotiating the deal with (Jekyll Ocean Oaks)," Boshears said. "These people had agreed to go out on a limb, and we only gave them a small rent abatement."

Boshears said he remains in favor of the deal Jekyll Ocean Oaks was given. It's the size of the recent deal which bothers him.

"I don't see the sense in giving them $10 million," Boshears said. "Our revenue stream will decline while the hotels are being torn down and rebuilt."

The rent abatement includes the usual 3 percent rent on all food and beverages sold at the new hotel during the first 10 years of the lease.

It's almost as if the authority is handing Trammel Crow a competitive edge, he said.

"How do we justify that to the other hotels on the island that will be competing against them?" Boshears asked, noting that other hotels don't have a large food and beverage rent abatement package. "Why are we giving this new hotel such a competitive edge?"

This is not the first time Boshears has been at odds with board action.

Long an outspoken advocate for Jekyll Island's citizens, Boshears has been most vocal recently in the need to keep Jekyll Island affordable for all Georgians - something lost on the politicians and developers, he said.

"The authority says this project will spur development on Jekyll Island," Boshears said. "I don't see why we need all this development."

Eric Garvey, spokesperson for the Jekyll Island Authority, said the Buccaneer deal with Trammel Crow is an important catalyst project for the state park.

"The deal brings in a $90 million investment to the island, gives us 426 first-class, new hotel rooms and will generate incredible economic impact," Garvey said, noting it will lead to increases in parking fees, conference business and golf business.

"It requires no cash investment by the Jekyll Island Authority, yet provides tremendous benefit. It is a great deal."

Garvey said it will take two years to construct the new hotel, and, once it is completed, direct revenue to the Jekyll Island Authority will exceed the current rent amount paid by the Buccaneer. He said that by the time the hotel is 10 years old, the authority will receive more than six times the amount of rent now being paid by the Buccaneer.

"While the first two years (of the construction phase) the JIA will see a reduction in rent revenue from this property, by the third year the JIA will be $500,000 cumulatively ahead from rent revenue," Garvey said.

Trammel Crow also plans to make an initial $1.4 million in renovations for the Oceanside Inn and Suites prior to the Buccaneer being torn down.