Saturday, November 24, 2007

11/21 - Donohue may run Lanier Authority

Date: November 21, 2007
Section(s): Local News

The Brunswick News

The executive director of the Jekyll Island Authority could be leaving Glynn County as soon as next month.

Bill Donohue, head of staff since September 1997, is being recommended for the top staff spot of the Lake Lanier Islands Development Authority, in north Georgia.

Gov. Sonny Perdue recommended Donohue for the post of executive director of the development authority Tuesday, citing his current track record and his former experience as head of the Georgia Mountains Authority. He also once served on the board of the Lake Lanier Islands Development Authority.

He will replace Kevin Clark, whom Perdue named interim state property officer who will lead the Georgia Building Authority and State Properties Commission.

"In his new role at the Lake Lanier Islands Development Authority, Georgia will continue to benefit from Bill Donohue's wealth of expertise at managing our state's parks and recreational sites," Perdue said in a prepared statement released to the media.

The Lake Islands Development Authority, created in 1962 by the Georgia General Assembly, manages Lake Lanier and oversees its development. In addition to the lake itself, recreational features include a water park, the state's largest wave pool, a resort hotel, camping and an 18-hole golf course.

Donohue also will provide administrative support to the board of the North Georgia Mountains Authority, which overseas Lake Blackshear Resort and Golf Club.

"It would take effect Jan. 1," said Marshall Guest, deputy press secretary for Perdue. "He's obviously very talented."

Both boards operate under the state Department of Natural Resources.

Members of the board of the Lake Lanier Islands Authority will vote on Perdue's recommendation at their Nov. 29 meeting. As with the Jekyll Island Authority, members of the Lanier Islands Authority are appointed by the governor.

Perdue's announcement comes at a time when Jekyll Island is being targeted for a $441 million redevelopment plan.

Marshall said there is no timetable for replacing Donohue. He said the Jekyll Island Authority will submit names to the governor in January for consideration.

He said Ben Porter, chair of the board of the authority, and others will oversee island affairs and the redevelopment plan until a full-time director is appointed.

They may have their hands full. The plan is opposed in its current form by residents of the island and is being questioned by state Sen. Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick.

It also may have legal problems. A lawsuit filed by an Atlanta company that lost the bid for leading the development to Linger Longer Communities is threatening the process.

In a memo to other members of the board of the Jekyll Island Authority following Perdue's announcement, Porter praised the work Donohue has done.

Jekyll Island has undergone a number of changes since Donohue took control. Events such as the festive lighting and celebrations planned on the island during the Christmas season and features such as the Georgia Sea Turtle Center have been added during his tenure.

"Bill managed the update of the Jekyll Master Plan, and was instrumental in the development of the revitalization plan for the island."

Michael Hodges, a member of the board of the Jekyll Island Authority, said Donohue has done an outstanding job getting the state park to where it is today. It will be up to the board to take it from here until a new director is named.

11/21 - 'Big picture' still left out

Date: November 21, 2007
Section(s): Letters
Saturday's front page article highlighted the main issues in the debate over Jekyll Island State Park's revitalization but somehow managed to get the big picture all wrong.

The debate is not between those opposed to and in favor of the park's redevelopment, as the article suggested, but rather between two approaches to this necessary step.

Consider this: Nearly everyone I've heard from about this issue, including the 5,000 plus supporters of the Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island, believes that Jekyll's beachfront hotels need to be redeveloped, its convention center updated, and its amenities enhanced.

They support redevelopment but not lining the park's main beach with half-million dollar condos, time-shares, and a luxury 400-room hotel, as proposed by Linger Longer Communities.

The article notes that the proposed development would rest on only a small slice of Jekyll's nine miles of beach but fails to mention that this same slice of land represents virtually all of the park's most popular public beach.

Are the needs of the general public best served by developing this beachfront as proposed by Linger Longer or by continuing to provide easy access to this wonderful asset?

Clearly, the dispute over Jekyll's revitalization is not a matter of being for or against change. It's about rival concepts of how the park should be redeveloped.

One sees Jekyll moving forward in harmony with its founding principles of affordability and accessibility.

The other, well, the color picture of the luxury hotel on the front page of the Saturday edition of The Brunswick News says it all.

Laura Renke

This is an intrusion on a fragile ecosystem

I returned to Glynn County just in time to read the latest salvo of words dealing with the ongoing battle for Jekyll Island. The battlelines are well defined and the rhetoric is flowing.

I personally am opposed to any major intrusion on such a fragile ecosystem. The impact of such an undertaking on this pride of the Georgia coast could prove to be devastating.

If anybody out there is gullible enough to believe that developers have the best interest of nature and the general public as their priority, then there's a certain bridge across the Brunswick River I would like to sell you.

It's about big bucks, people, plain and simple.

Jekyll Island was purchased many years ago through the efforts of Gov. M.E. Thompson and the Georgia General Assembly and purposed to remain a pristine, wondrous blend of sea and maritime forest to be enjoyed by generations of Georgians at a nominal cost, not a resource to be exploited.

If the developers and politicians have their way, all of that will be sacrificed in the name of greed. Once it happens and people begin to realize what they have lost, it will be too late.

There are ways to improve on existing structures, even the raising of new hotel/motels in the footprints of the old.

But major construction of the scale proposed will be the death knell to this slice of paradise on the Georgia coast.

Thomas B. Scott

Development should be preceded by study

My husband taught coastal biology to Emory University students for 16 summers.

He used as an example the unspoiled parts of Jekyll Island to indicate the fragile ecosystem of a barrier island and why it's important to protect it..

Any development could adversely upset the ecosystem.

Before any change, an environmental study should be done and guidelines provided to protect the island for the people for whom it was created.

Any development that is allowed to occur should be in keeping with the Jekyll Island State Park Authority Act - House Bill 604, 1950 Section 8.

It calls for operation of the public facilities at the park at rates so moderate that all the ordinary citizens of the state may enjoy them.

The Linger Longer proposal does not allow facilities that will satisfy the act.

The Jekyll Island Authority seems to have lost sight of the state mandate.

Professor Emeritus and Mrs. William E. Brillhart
St. Simons Island

Misconceptions to be cleared on Jekyll

I am writing this letter to correct some of the misconceptions regarding the residents on Jekyll Island.

The residents are not opposed to development on the Island. We agree that the island needs new or updated hotels/motels, a new or updated convention center and an updated shopping center.

What we don't want is a town center that belongs at a resort area, not on a barrier island state park.

The proposed plan would not allow easy access to the beach, would endanger the loggerhead turtle - already an endangered species - and would deny the average Georgian amenities presently afforded them on the island.

Another misconception is that we pay very little to live on Jekyll Island.

If you compare a residence elsewhere in the area to one of equal value on Jekyll, the Jekyll resident pays more at the end of the year because not only do we pay real estate taxes, county and school, but we also pay a lease and fire fee, as well as for water, sewer and trash pick-up services.

We care so much for the privilege of living on this beautiful state park that we contribute thousands of hours of volunteer work a year for the benefit of visitors.

Sandy Cerrato
Jekyll Island

11/20 - Affordable? Not the question

Date November 20, 2007
Section(s) Letters
Your editorial of Nov. 10 makes a series of assumptions that I do not believe are correct.

Nobody that I am aware of is proposing that Jekyll Island be returned to its "natural state." Nobody that I am aware of is opposed to the redevelopment/revitalization that will occur.

You state that few people from "deep inland" can enjoy Jekyll now because of the "lack of accommodations." This is not correct. The three hotels that were badly deteriorated have either been torn down or are being torn down. The Days Inn, on the other hand, offers economical rates, has been recently reviewed and is excellent shape. Other hotels on Jekyll are also in good shape.

Our prototype private sector partner, Linger Longer, is proposing three entirely new hotels for the Convention Center area. One of those new hotels has been specifically earmarked to be an "economy" facility. Everyone I know of supports the Linger Longer concept of having a range of hotels in terms of price in that area.

I have been a strong proponent of maintaining the concept of affordable accommodations on Jekyll. The statute says that the Authority is supposed to do just that. If Linger Longer is not comfortable with the affordability requirement, then why would they propose an economy hotel?

The areas of disagreement with Linger Longer's plan are the number of condominium/residential units to be built in the Convention Center area, the distance from new construction to environmentally sensitive areas and the availability of accessible parking near the beach. Ben Porter, chair of the Authority Board, has already stated that he is "100 percent certain" that the present Linger Longer plan will not be approved by the authority.

The board is going to have lengthy negotiations with Linger Longer to resolve the above and other issues.

We can redevelop and revitalize Jekyll while keeping it affordable for the majority of Georgians. Hotel developers understand what "affordable" means even if our critics do not.

I, along with other board members, am committed to maintaining a range of affordable accommodations on Jekyll. Developers certainly would prefer to build expensive hotel units and condominiums, but they are grudgingly going to have to accept the fact that a range of prices must be provided.

Ed Boshears