Thursday, January 17, 2008

01/16 - Jekyll plan gains support

Date January 16, 2008
Section(s) Local News
The Brunswick News

ATLANTA - Calling Jekyll Island a "tarnished jewel," the chair of the Glynn County Commission told overseers of the state park Tuesday that the commission is backing efforts to revitalize it.

"The Glynn County Commission would like to endorse what the (Jekyll Island) Authority is doing," Commission Chair Don Hogan told the authority during its meeting at the Coverdell Legislative Building.

"Jekyll Island is a tarnished jewel for the state of Georgia and it's time that jewel was polished," Hogan said.

Hogan was among 75 community leaders and citizens from Glynn County who attended the meeting of the Jekyll Island Authority board to show support for redevelopment plans. Others made the trip to oppose them.

The Jekyll Island board this past autumn approved a $440 million project outlined by Linger Longer Communities of Greensboro, N.C., to construct new hotels, condominiums, convention center and shopping area on about 60 acres near the waterfront. Linger Longer is the authority's private sector partner in the redevelopment.

Support for the project came from representatives of both the public and private sectors Tuesday.

"Linger Longer has done a great job," said Bruce Dixon, chair of the Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce. "We all want to do our part to protect the environment and this is a great marriage between (the private sector) and the state."

The meeting came just one day after a Fulton County Superior Court judge denied a request by Jekyll Island Revitalization Group, one of two companies that lost the bid for the partnership role, to stop the project. It had contended the contract was awarded unfairly, but a judge Monday dismissed its claim.

Several legislator members of the Jekyll Island Legislative Oversight Committee, which met prior to the board's meeting, stayed to hear an update of Linger Longer's plans.

House Majority Leader Jerry Keen, R-St. Simons Island, who chairs the legislative committee, praised the authority on behalf of the oversight panel for its efforts.

"From our standpoint, we would like to thank the authority for all their hard work on this project," Keen said. "They are doing things now that will be beneficial to not only coastal Georgia, but all of Georgia, as a whole."

Not everyone spoke in support of the project.

"Actually, what they said today was just a rehashing of their initial proposal, which indicates to me that they are not willing to change anything," said Frank Mirasola, president of the Jekyll Island Citizens Association, which opposes the current plan.

"We still have the same concerns after hearing their presentation that we had before the meeting (Tuesday). We support the restoration and rebuilding of the existing hotels that are there now within the same footprint that they exist in today."

Other organizations opposed to the project as proposed also sent representatives, including the Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island and the Center for a Sustainable Coast.

Jim Langford, project executive director for Linger Longer Communities, re-sponded to criticism, saying that issues such as affordability, parking and beach access are all addressed in the plan.

He said 72 percent of all new accommodations will cost less than $139 per night and that parking is being restructured, not eliminated.

"Some new spaces will be located closer to the beach than any parking that exists today and will eliminate the current competition between day visitors and conventions," Langford said.

He also said there will be 8,500 feet of new pervious boardwalk.

"There will be the same number and locations of beach access points as exist today," he said. "There will be improved restroom and changing facilities. And there will be no affect on beach access elsewhere on the island.

"We have three main goals. One, create a critical mass of new and compelling reasons for visitors to come back to the island without doing too much.

"Two, achieve the right balance of economic sustainability with minimal impact on Jekyll Island's cultural and environmental resources.

"And three, to provide a recreational experience that is enjoyable and affordable for all Georgians."

Langford said the company, which is collecting public input, hopes to begin construction in about a year.

No comments: