Thursday, November 15, 2007

11/15 - Hundreds attend Jekyll forum

Thu, Nov 15, 2007
The Brunswick News

IMAGE: Morgan Simpson officially presents a petition bearing the names of more than 700 others, advocating that the Jekyll Island playground be saved in any redevelopment plans. (Michael Hall/The Brunswick News photo)

When one person opposed to redevelopment plans for Jekyll Island asked how many people at a public meeting Wednesday like what is proposed, the answer was obvious: Not many.

Just over one dozen of the 300 people at the meeting convened by project leader Linger Longer Communities stood up to show support for the plans.

Those who railed against the proposed $441 million development during the 20 minutes for citizens to speak outnumbered those with a word or two of support for the plan.

For former state Sen. Ed Boshears, a member of the board of the Jekyll Island Authority which operates the state-owned island and which selected Linger Longer to lead the revitalization of it, the showing reinforced his stand in opposition.

"The existing plan will not be approved as is," Boshears said. "This is not a done deal. There are some aspects of this plan I would never vote for," Boshears said at the meeting at the Jekyll Island Convention Center.

Many of those who lease property on Jekyll Island have objected to the redevelopment all along, saying what is planned for new hotels would make the state park unaffordable to average Georgians. The redevelopment includes new hotels, condominiums, new shopping district and new convention center.

There also are important environmental issues to consider, Kathy Chapman, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist, told Jekyll Island Authority board members and Linger Longer officials at the hearing.

"These are superb plans for a less sensitive area," she said, noting the island is susceptible to hurricanes and tropical storms. "You should look at how the former captains of the island built on the sheltered side of the island."