Thursday, January 17, 2008

01/14 - Ruling allows Jekyll redevelopment to move forward > Business
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 01/14/08

A Fulton County Superior Court on Monday allowed the big-scale redevelopment of Jekyll Island to go forward, turning back a challenge from a losing bidder who claimed the contract was unfairly awarded by the state.

Judge Jerry Baxter's ruling allows the Linger Longer Co. to continue with its $352 million condo-hotel-retail project in the state park near Brunswick. The Greensboro, Ga.-based developer plans 1,100 condo, hotel and time-share units fronting the Atlantic Ocean.

Wade Shealy Jr., whose company lost the bid, sued the island's governing body after it awarded the coveted redevelopment contract last September. The Jekyll Island Authority prevailed Monday when Judge Baxter determined the process was fair and that Linger Longer won the prize on its merits. Shealy said he'll likely appeal Baxter's decision.

In its request for proposals last year, the authority stipulated eight times that the "town center" project would encompass 45 acres. Shealy's Jekyll Island Revitalization Group and The Trammell Crow Co. adhered to the 45-acre parameter.

Linger Longer, however, used 64 acres in its plan. By using fewer acres, Shealy said, the degree of green space and density —- two major selection criteria —- was unfairly skewed.

The judge disagreed.

Shealy further contends that the authority violated state procurement law while engaging in "an arbitrary and capricious act." He claims the authority intended all along to pick Linger Longer and that the surprise decision to accept its 64-acre proposal —- when other bidders were under the impression that only 45 acres were in play —- underscores the favoritism.

"We're disappointed, but it's not over," Shealy said. "We believe the process was flawed. Our goal was to get a fair bid and that's still our goal."

Baxter, after ruling in the state's favor, suggested the authority and Linger Longer slow the island's development until a higher court, if necessary, weighs in.

"That island is very special," the judge said. "All of those islands down there need to be protected."

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