Wednesday, November 14, 2007


The Florida Times-Union
November 14, 2007
By The Times-Union

A demolition crew began tearing down the old Buccaneer Beach Resort Tuesday on Jekyll Island to make way for a new $120 million hotel, the first on the island in almost 35 years.

The old hotel will be replaced by the oceanfront Canopy Bluff Hotel & Residences, which will combine 301 full-service hotel rooms, 127 condominium rental program residences and a new meeting space.

"As we progress in this next chapter on Jekyll Island, we want to thank the team of Trammell Crow Co., New South Partners and Global Asset Alternatives for taking a leadership role in helping us plan for the island's future," Ben Porter, chairman of the Jekyll Island Association board, said in a release.

"Their commitment to preserving the natural integrity of the island, while building a modern facility Georgians deserve, will set the standard as we enter a new era on Jekyll," Porter said.

An Atlanta tree specialist has been hired to move and care for large trees along the property to preserve the canopy.

This story can be found on at

11/11 - Jekyll Island beaches are slip-sliding away

The Florida Times-Union
November 11, 2007
Times-Union Correspondent

JEKYLL ISLAND - The state hopes to attract more tourists to Jekyll Island's beaches by signing off on a large-scale private development that will include hotels, condominiums, restaurants and shops.

But parts of those beaches are washing away - quite rapidly in some places.

According to statistics provided by Clark Alexander of the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, 60 percent of the state park's shoreline is eroding. The rate varies from a few inches a year to around eight feet.

One of the worst examples of erosion along Jekyll's 10 miles of beaches is at one of the state park's most scenic locations, Driftwood Beach. Along its quarter-mile length on the island's north end, the skeletons of oaks and pines jut from the sand, forming weathered sculptures that are at once beautiful and haunting.

Once, those trees occupied high ground, but the sea has steadily carved away at the shoreline. Erosion occurs naturally on the north end of Georgia's barrier islands, Alexander points out, but the dredging of the ship channel off the Jekyll beach also plays a role.

"Certainly, some of the sediment that would be getting to Jekyll gets caught in the ship channel," Alexander said. "But I don't think it has been determined how much."

That's a problem for Mindy Egan of the Initiative to save Jekyll Island, an organization that opposes the extensive development that is in the works.

Mid-island, 63 acres have been earmarked by developer Linger Longer Communities LLC for development, but there have been no studies to determine what the beach will look like in the years to come, Egan said.

"If erosion does take place there, those new buildings will be threatened," she said. "Then they will be forced to armor those beaches with rocks."

Erecting such a seawall will protect the buildings but not the beach, she said, and also will disrupt an important nesting area for endangered sea turtles.

"Turtles don't nest where there are rocks," Egan said.

She argues that the Jekyll Island Authority has put the cart before the horse in opening the island up for development on the scale that has been proposed.

"They need to do a 100-year shoreline study that will predict how the beach will be eroding during that time period before they develop along it," she said.

With data from the study, developers could better determine how far to set the buildings back from the beach, she said.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is involved in no such studies, according to Coastal Resources Director Susan Shipman.

"We have no resources to do a study," she said.

Because Jekyll is covered under the federal Shore Protection Act, any development will have to meet the act's provisions, she said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans no study to determine the impact of ship channel dredging.

Such a study was conducted at Tybee Island. The results, released by the corps in September, showed that 70 percent to 80 percent of erosion of the Tybee beach could be attributed to the dredging. But Tybee's circumstances differ from Jekyll's.

Dredging at Tybee is closer to the beach and more extensive, according to corps' public affairs officer Billy Birdwell. The closest dredges get to Jekyll, Birdwell said, is 1,000 feet.

A study is needed

Birdwell said a comprehensive study similar to Tybee's is needed to determine what effect dredging has on Jekyll's erosion, but "Right now, there are no funds for that."

Jekyll Island marketing director Eric Garvey said the Jekyll Island Authority monitors the north end erosion in an unscientific manner and has looked at establishing a beach management plan, but currently no so such plan is in place.

Garvey points out that while the north end is eroding, the south end is gaining sand in undeveloped areas. On the northern third of the beach, erosion can negatively impact a guest's Jekyll visit, Garvey said.

"There's no beach at high tide there," causing beach-goers to move farther south in search of sand, he said.

Watching for the worst

From Driftwood Beach north around to the pier at the Clam Creek Picnic area, there is no development along the shore, and that's where the worst of the erosion is taking place.

"We're observing it and we wouldn't want to lose valuable marsh or beach," Garvey said. "But it hasn't gotten to the point that it's threatening buildings or roads."

Garvey said Egan's concerns about the proposed development are unfounded.

"We haven't seen any kind of beach erosion encroaching on these areas that will be developed," he said. "There's no evidence at this moment that we should be concerned about development in these areas."

11/7 - Chapman seeks review of upscale Jekyll plans

The Florida Times-Union
November 7, 2007
Times-Union Correspondent

BRUNSWICK - A state senator wants Georgia's attorney general to examine government plans to modernize Jekyll Island State Park with upscale development.

Sen. Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick, whose district includes Jekyll Island, said he believes the island's governing body has violated laws which require the park to serve the general public. The Jekyll Island Authority has approved hotels that are for the most part priced above what middle-income Georgians can afford and has offered the hotel developers financial incentives to build on what is considered prime beachfront property.

In a letter to the Jekyll Island Oversight Committee, a group of legislators that reviews authority actions, Chapman asked members to seek a formal legal opinion on what state law allows with respect to development on Jekyll.

"Georgia's law, when it was written, identified so clearly the spirit behind it about how Jekyll is supposed to be handled," said Chapman, referring to Georgia code that set aside Jekyll Island as a state park for the use of "the plain people of Georgia."

Authority board members could not be reached for comment on Chapman's letter and a planned formal response was not ready for release as of Tuesday.

Two members of the Jekyll Island Oversight Committee said they had not yet received Chapman's letter, but responded to its content.

Sen. Tommie Williams, R-Lyons, expressed confidence in the authority's handling of the redevelopment process and said he did not think an opinion from the attorney general would be needed.

State Rep. Karla Drenner, D-Avondale Estates, disagreed with his view.

"These are valid points that Sen. Chapman has brought up," she said. "I don't think it's an unreasonable request to have the attorney general look into this."

Last summer, the Jekyll Island Authority offered a $10 million rent abatement to developer Trammell Crow, which will build a new upscale hotel on the site of the old Buccaneer Resort. In September, the authority selected a new private development partner that is requesting more than $84 million in state bonds to help finance the development of a town square center.

Chapman says these incentives amount to giveaways of state property and violate the gratuities provision of the Georgia Constitution.

"Our constitution protects Georgians from the government giving away Georgia's assets," Chapman said. " They're giving away huge abatements and ... what we are getting is expensive hotel rooms which will not be affordable to the majority of people."

But Williams said he doesn't feel the incentives were wrong.

"I don't see structured rent payments as a gift," he said. "It's a way to get folks up and running. It's a very common practice in real estate."

Chapman said he also believes state law prohibits the authority from approving development on Jekyll Island that is overwhelmingly upscale.

He points to Trammel Crow's new 540-room hotel, which will charge an average room rate of $175 per night, as one example of how Jekyll's affordability mandate has been violated. More than half of the new town square center's hotels will charge room rates in excess of $150 per night. Most of the town square center's 277 new condos will be priced above $400,000.

"So far, they have been moving forward as if there is no law. They've ignored the state code regarding affordability," said Chapman.

Williams said believes authority assurances that there will continue to be plenty of affordable hotel rooms on Jekyll.

"I think the market will dictate what Jekyll needs," said Williams. "In most places, it takes a mix of price ranges for things to work. I don't see this as being an issue."

Finally, the authority is required to prepare an environmental impact report on any development that might compromise an ecologically sensitive area, Chapman says.

Fourteen acres of the new town square center lie on what is now a nature preserve. Construction near beach areas may impact endangered species, such as the loggerhead sea turtle. So far, no report has been filed.

"Jekyll Island is one of the most sensitive natural resources we in Georgia own," Chapman said. "The problem with environmental damage is a lot of times once you've done it, it's irreversible."

At Monday's meeting of the Jekyll Island Authority, Chairman Ben Porter said the authority will perform any needed environmental impact studies before approving the town square center's master plan.

This story can be found on at

11/07 - Senator wants Jekyll inquiry

Date November 07, 2007
Section(s) Local News
The Brunswick News

State Sen. Tommie Williams, R-Lyons, says it is unlikely that the Jekyll Island Legislative Oversight Committee will ask the state Attorney General to look into recent actions by the board of the Jekyll Island Authority.

State Sen. Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick, whose five-county district includes Jekyll Island, had asked for the probe.

In a letter Monday to the committee, Chapman asked that it recommend that Attorney General Thurbert Baker render several legal opinions concerning proposed developments on Jekyll Island, including the $10 million in rent abatement granted Trammell Crow Co. by the board of the Jekyll Island Authority.

Trammell Crow is proposing a $90 million development on Jekyll Island.

Williams, who is co-chair of the oversight committee, said he is taking Chapman's letter seriously. "I am having his request looked at by attorneys that have experience in state property negotiations to see if there is any legitimacy to his concerns."

But, Williams added, "at first blush, I don't see a problem with what has been done."

Williams and other members of the oversight committee met with the authority in August on Jekyll Island and left the meeting satisfied that everything was on the up and up.

Chapman feels that Trammell Crow's proposed $90 million development, part of a $350 million redevelopment project proposed by Linger Longer Communities that includes new hotels, condominiums and a convention center, will make the state park unaffordable to average Georgians. He asked that the committee seek an official opinion from Baker on whether that would be in violation of state law.

Williams said he doesn't agree with Chapman's assessment.

"You already have affordable properties there, and the board has said it plans to have affordable properties," Williams said.

11/03 - Jekyll Island proposal to get more feedback

Date November 03, 2007
Section(s) Local News
The Brunswick News

Jekyll Island residents say they will be ready to voice their concerns about the proposed revitalization of the state-owned island at public hearings that will be held around Georgia this month.

But some who plan to attend say they aren't confident that their voices will have any impact.

"My sense is the fundamental plan isn't terribly flexible," said David Egan, founder of the Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island. "I hope I'm dead wrong."

Egan said he has major problems with the proposal and hopes the contractor and the Jekyll Island Authority listen to concerns about legal, moral and environmental issues.

Linger Longer Communities will oversee a proposed $441 million revitalization of Jekyll, a project that includes new hotels, condominiums, convention center and shopping complex.

"We're primarily concerned with the fundamental concept behind proposing buildings of that scale on a three-quarter mile stretch of a sensitive barrier-island beach," Egan said.

"This just isn't well thought out. These proposed concepts jeopardize the character of the island."

Frank Mirasola, president of the Jekyll Island Citizens Association, said he is disturbed by many facets of the redevelopment proposal.

"Many of us have a problem with the concepts of the proposal," Mirasola said. "They should design around what's there."

Input from the four public meetings will be used to help shape the proposal's master plan, said Eric Garvey, senior director of marketing for the Jekyll Island Authority.

"We put a high value on the public input," Garvey said. "We won't be able to accommodate everyone, but we will record and consider all input."

Misinformation is fueling many of the concerns, Garvey said.

The public meetings will include a presentation of the conceptual plan that should clear up any misconceptions, and questions will be answered, he said.

"The public input will be considered," Garvey said.

"This is a first run to get people to react. Then we can go through the master plan process, making changes once we're further along."

Four public input meetings are planned on Jekyll Island's proposed redevelopment plan.

* Nov. 14 at 9:30 a.m. at Heritage Bank in St. Marys and at 3:30 p.m. at the Jekyll Island Convention Center.

* Nov. 15 at 6:30 p.m. in the Knox Room at the National Science Center in Augusta.

* Nov. 20 at 3:30 p.m. at the Cobb Galleria on Cobb Parkway in Atlanta.

11/13 - Girl, 10, leads fight to save Jekyll park

Date November 13, 2007
Section(s) Local News
The Brunswick News

One Jekyll Island resident who plans to voice her opinion during Wednesday's public hearings on the future of the island hopes developers remember children in their plans.

She is particularly concerned about the playground.

So are 600 others whose signatures 10-year-old Morgan Simpson has collected in hopes of influencing the fate of the playground, which is in the path of new development on the island.

The hearings, two of which will be held today on Jekyll, will focus on the proposed $441 million revitalization of Jekyll, a project that includes new hotels, condominiums, convention center and shopping complex that will be overseen by Linger Longer Communities.

"I'm doing this for all of the children who love this playground," Simpson said, visiting the playground Monday.

Simpson even made a video, "I Can Make a Difference," to inspire children to sign her petition.

She hopes her efforts will make a difference.

Simpson wants the Jekyll Island Authority and Linger Longer Communities, which are hosting the public input sessions, to make plans to move the playground.

"Probably they will think about how a little kid took up all of their time to gather these names," she said. "Hopefully they will see this means a lot to us. This is the only place on Jekyll Island where we can hang out with our friends and play."

The option of putting a playground on the hotel grounds is not good, she said. "If they put it up near the hotel it will get too crowded."

Simpson hopes to get even more signatures from school mates before attending the meeting with her parents.

"I think it would be good to move the playground out near the ocean maybe," she said. "It's just not fair for them to rip it all up and not put it back somewhere.

"This playground is always busy. I've had my birthday parties here, and a lot of other kids have too. A lot of people use this park."

The Jekyll Island Authority and Linger Longer Communities will host two public input sessions at the Jekyll Island Convention Center Wednesday, one at 3:30 p.m. and the other at 7 p.m. A hearing also is planned for 9:30 a.m. at Heritage Bank in St. Marys

11/09 - Brunswick News - Section(s) Letters

Date November 09, 2007
The Brunswick News

Jekyll redevelopment stands to ruin the island

I am a resident of Michigan who has had the opportunity and privilege to visit Jekyll Island many times since 1975.

I have also recommended Jekyll Island State Park as a vacation destination to scores and scores of families, and scores of them have vacationed there. If the current plan for redevelopment of the island goes through it will ruin the island for many of us. It will also make it unaffordable for many. For those reasons, I feel very strongly about Jekyll Island and maintaining it as an affordable vacation spot.

Nellie Buckhout
Three Rivers, Mich.

Isn't this the rationale for public parks?

It seems the Jekyll Island State Park Authority is moving to limit near-beach parking for local families of Brunswick and nearby communities. As I understand it, after development, near beach parking will be limited to street-sides and a hotel parking lot.

As citizens of Georgia and communities near Jekyll, let's think about this. Jekyll Island is a part of the Georgia Park System. Shouldn't that mean first consideration be given to Georgian families regardless of wealth and income, especially to local area families? Isn't this the main idea behind having public parks? Georgia State Parks has posted a promotion of National Family Week. A quote, "National Family Week firmly believes that strong families are at the center of strong communities. Your state parks and historic sites are great places to spend some family time."

With high-end development planned, I wonder how much this philosophy of family time for Georgians is truly being considered. Studies have shown that once development starts, more is sure to follow.

The 2007 Georgia Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP) featured a survey of Georgians. It indicated we are interested in parks not only to have fun, but also to be with family and friends and enjoy nature. The Georgia SCORP encourages retention of greenspace and public access for diverse constituencies. As high-end development of Jekyll proceeds, credible studies suggest there will be more restrictions on public access. That means Brunswick and surrounding counties' families will see their access to Jekyll Island State Park beaches eroded.

Ken Cordell

Lucky to have Sen. Jeff Chapman on deck

I wanted to thank The Brunswick News for keeping its readers informed about the developing story of what is happening to Jekyll Island.

Sen. Jeff Chapman's honorable pursuit of justice serves as a beacon in the night that will hopefully help us find our way through this nightmare that has caused many sleepless nights for the people who truly love Jekyll Island and want to preserve it for future generations to enjoy. Thanks again for your service to the community and the citizens of Georgia.

Susan Evans
Ocilla, Ga.

You should be proud to have Sen. Chapman

Thank you for your consistent reporting on proposed Jekyll Island development.You surely must be proud that Sen. Chapman represents your area. He seems to be doing his best to represent not only all his constituents, but also the ordinary people of Georgia. The Jekyll Island Authority just doesn't seem to understand its mandate. Jekyll Island has one of the most beautiful beaches there is, and it plans to destroy it by building on the beachfront. Right now, with the public parking there, the expanse of beach and ocean is not only a treasure of the state of Georgia, but also a national treasure.

As an out-of-state visitor, I certainly would be happy to pay more in fees to access the island if this would help save it. If not, I will plan to go to less-developed areas in South Carolina.

Karen Brown
Kalamazoo, Mich.

- Editor's note: Other letters concerning Jekyll Island can be found on our web-site:

11/10 - Jekyll - Why couldn't it use development?

Date November 10, 2007
Section(s) Commentary
The Brunswick News

OK, so tell us why nice hotels, a nice shopping plaza and a more inviting environment for enjoying the bountiful amenities of Jekyll Island is a bad idea? Tell us again why 550 permanent jobs - and that's not counting the 500 temporary construction jobs that will be generated - an estimated $13 million in hotel/motel taxes and $28.5 million in tax revenue is not a good idea for any Georgian, including average Georgians?

This and more is what all Georgians will get when a 21st century plan is implemented that involves the redevelopment of that which is already developed on the state-owned island. This is a plan for everyone, not just a few.

If barrier islands being left in their natural state is what naysayers want, Georgia has them covered. There's Cumberland Island, Sapelo Island, Ossabaw Island - to name just a few. Sapelo and Ossabaw are state wildlife management islands, and Cumberland is a national seashore.

What Georgia does not have - what it lacks - is an island where individuals, families, groups and organizations can go alone or as a group, large and small, to enjoy a week or a weekend close to the seashore and close to nature in a setting that is modern, new and comfortable.

That's what the Jekyll Island authority has had in mind all along. And it's what it has in mind still today. Members of the authority are intelligent enough to understand that it would be unwise to ruin or destroy the very essence of the island, the very ambiance, that makes Georgia's Jewel alluring.

It is not a surfing beach. Far from it. Nor will it ever be. It's a tranquil, back-to-nature place that, at present, very few people who live deep inland can enjoy because of the lack of accommodations. Families look elsewhere, as do Georgia-grown organizations, to bask near the ocean.

At Stone Mountain State Park, another park that is owned by the state and another park that is overseen by a governor-appointed authority, don't expect to find cheap rates. There are only two hotels, in fact, inside the park. There's the Evergreen Marriott Conference Resort, where nightly room rates start at $199 and climb as high as $429, and there's the Marriott Stone Mountain Inn, which is at the lower end of the scale. Its nightly rates range from $149 to $249.

Believe it or not, the cost of the inside hotels does not keep average Georgians out of Stone Mountain Park, though.

There also is a campground inside Stone Mountain Park - an opportunity for moms, dads and children to get out and enjoy nature together, which many do. Jekyll Island has a campground, too - a well used one, at that.

Georgia needs this development proposed for Jekyll Island. It needs the attraction and the jobs that it will produce.

11/12 - Ceremony to mark Buccaneer's demise

Date November 12, 2007
The Brunswick News

After 48 years of accommodating countless guests, the Buccaneer Beach Resort on Jekyll Island will soon be little more than a memory for the thousands who vacationed there.

The hotel's demolition is scheduled to begin Tuesday with a ceremony that will include the partners in the proposed redevelopment of the island, the business community and the state hospitality association.

Demolition of the Buccaneer will take several weeks.

The company contracted to raze the structure, CST Environmental Inc., of Orlando, plans to salvage much of what has held the resort together throughout its almost five decades of existence.

"Modern demolition is more than just taking a wrecking ball in there and piling it all up," said Eric Garvey, director of marketing and business for the Jekyll Island Authority. "Like pieces are piled together and are then sold off to recycling firms, which is why the process takes so much time.

"My understanding is that they even recycle concrete, grinding it up and using as aggregate."

There's also a matter of removing the structure without threatening or destroying the tree canopy.

"A big part of the initial work is tree protection, and their arborist will be down monitoring the identification and protection of the trees," Garvey said.

The demolition crew should have the Buccaneer completely torn down by the end of the year, he said.

Though there have been other hotel demolitions recently on Jekyll Island, this one marks the first big step toward the greater revitalization plans.

Those plans call for $441 million in redevelopment projects that will include new hotels, condominiums, new convention center, and new commercial shopping district.

"This is the most visible big step," Garvey said. "The demolition of the Buccaneer marks the next phase."

The New Year will bring the next phase, the actual construction.

Hearings will be held around the state to collect public input on the redevelopment plans. On the coast, two meetings are planned Wednesday, one at 9:30 a.m. at Heritage Bank in St. Marys and the other at 3:30 p.m. at the Jekyll Island Convention Center.

Public input meetings also are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the National Science Center in Augusta and at 3:30 p.m. Nov. 20 at the Cobb Galleria on Cobb Parkway in Atlanta.

"We are expecting construction to begin in the first quarter, maybe some time in February or March," Garvey said.

First, though, there's the matter of taking down the Buccaneer, which has a long history on the island.

Sam Snead's 96-unit Buccaneer Motor Lodge opened in May 1961. The next year the use of Snead's name was discontinued and the motel simply became known as the Buccaneer Motor Lodge.

Additions were made to the motel in 1967 and 1969, increasing the number of rooms of the popular retreat to 206.

In 1985 it became the Quality Inn Buccaneer and in the 1990s was named the Clarion Resort Buccaneer.