Tuesday, November 20, 2007

11/19 - State analysis on Jekyll was good call

Date: November 19, 2007
Section(s): Commentary

Sen. Tommie Williams probably did the right thing when he asked Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker to review concerns expressed by this district's own senator. It just might - and that's a big if - put much of the controversy surrounding the ambitious redevelopment proposal for the Jekyll Island oceanfront to rest.

Sen. Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick, asked Sen. Williams - co-chair of the Jekyll Island Legislative Oversight Committee - to request an official legal analysis by the state. The analysis will focus on a number of issues concerning contracts signed, incentives awarded and the overall objective of the plan that's designed to breathe new life into the aging, listless beachfront of Jekyll Island.

By requesting the review, Sen. Williams is respecting the wishes of Sen. Chapman, and that's good. It is how it should be. Sen. Chapman's voice should be heard. He does speak for the voters on Jekyll Island, after all.

Sen. Williams knows what it's like to be slighted by colleagues. It wasn't too terribly long ago, after all, when a Jekyll Island study committee named by the then Democratic-controlled General Assembly left him out of the loop, passing him over for a Democrat, even though the Lyons Republican represented Jekyll Island at the time.

Interestingly, one of the issues the Attorney General Baker will be asked to grapple with and clarify is whether the redevelopment plan, which includes new hotels and a convention center, ignores the wishes of the state when Georgia first took over the island in the late 1940s. Opponents of what is being proposed to reinvigorate Georgia's Jewel on the Coast are of the opinion that new facilities will put the island out of reach of "average" Georgians.

Linger Longer and the Jekyll Island Authority have assured them that it won't. And members of the Jekyll Island Legislative Oversight Committee - elected officials all - feel confident that they are correct. Now, the attorney general, another elected official, will weigh in on the debate.

When the attorney general will complete the evaluation, is anyone's guess. Sen. Williams can't answer that question

Hopefully, he let it be known that there is a sense of urgency here. It's a plan that is already in motion. Linger Longer Communities, Jekyll Island Authority's partner in the redevelopment plan, is now holding public hearings. And the Buccaneer - an icon to the neglect the state park has suffered over the years - is coming down.

11/20 - Jekyll plans stymied by new lawsuit filed

Tue, Nov 20, 2007
The Brunswick News

Revitalization plans for a beachfront area of Jekyll Island will have to overcome a lawsuit to proceed.

Wade Shealy Jr., an Atlanta developer who formed the Jekyll Island Revitalization Group to bid on the project awarded to Linger Longer Communities, filed suit Friday in Fulton County Superior Court to stop it.

Shealy claims the Jekyll Island Authority unfairly awarded the lead role in the proposed redevelopment of Jekyll Island to Linger Longer Communities.

He wants to stop the developers from proceeding with the $440 million project in the general area of the Jekyll Island Convention Center.

Linger Longer's proposed project includes hotels, condominiums, time-share units, a convention center and a shopping complex. It has started holding public hearings on the plan.

The controversy heated up four days after the Jekyll Island Authority unanimously awarded the lead role to Linger Longer Communities Sept. 24.

Jekyll Island Revitalization Group's lawyer appealed to the authority, stating that the bidding process was unfair because different bidders had been treated differently.

Mike Hodges, a member of the board of the Jekyll Island Authority that administers the state-owned island, disagrees with that claim.

"I can say the process used was proper and fair," he said Monday. "We are proud to have Linger Longer as partners."

Jekyll Island Revitalization Group cited three major objections in the protest sent earlier to the authority, asking it to reconsider the bids before filing suit.

It alleged that Linger Longer was not responsive to the authority's request for proposals, citing 25 allegations. It also lists 20 legal objections and six constitutional objections.

Shealy claims the board's intention was to select Linger Longer. He said all other bidders were under the impression that the plan they were bidding on was limited to 45 acres. Linger Longer's proposal includes 64-acres.

Hodges disputes Shealy's claim.

"We asked what they would do with a 45-acre site," he said. "There were a lot of questions back and forth, one being, "Can we use more?

"I believe Shealy was in the room when we answered 'yes.' We weren't picking a plan, but a partner."

The Jekyll Island Authority denies claims made by the Jekyll Island Revitalization Group.

As a legal matter, the lawsuit could have minimal impact on development of plans for Jekyll Island or it could send the whole process back to the beginning.

Dismissal of the suit before a trial could have minimal disruption, if there would be no appeal. But a trial and judgment for Jekyll Island Revitalization Group could delay work indefinitely.