Monday, February 25, 2008


Date: February 08, 2008
Section(s): Local News

The Brunswick News

It's not that he is opposed to change. It's more that Sen. Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick, disagrees with what he calls irresponsible change.

That's how he describes the $344 million revitalization project proposed for Jekyll Island, and now he's trying to alter or drastically stop the plan with three bills he introduced in Georgia General Assembly Wednesday.

The Jekyll Island project includes a new commercial center, new hotels and a new convention center.

"I support the revitalization of Jekyll Island," Chapman said Thursday. "No one disputes that (the island) has fallen into a state of disrepair, and it's sad the Jekyll Island Authority has let it get that way. But the project they are proposing is not responsible growth. It does not sit well with me."

The three measures Chapman introduced would prevent the building of new full-time residences on the state-owned island, prevent the construction of the proposed Beach Village near the waterfront and more strictly define legal terminology used in defining the redevelopment project.

Under the new definitions, Chapman would put a cap on rates charged by Jekyll Island hotels. He has defined "lowest rates reasonable and possible" to mean that the average annual daily rate charged by Jekyll Island hotels cannot exceed the annual average daily rate charged for rooms of the same occupancy at other state parks that are specified in the bill.

The legislation calls for 70 percent of the rooms in hotels to reflect the lowest possible rates, while 30 percent of the rooms can "be as luxurious as the hotels want them to be," Chapman said.

This, Chapman said, is a push to ensure that the island is accessible to all Georgians and not a select exclusive few.

Chapman said he is not looking to stop revitalization but is merely voicing the opinions of residents across the state, including those who fear the project may cause ecological disturbances on the island

"This is not the Jeff Chapman campaign," he said. "People stop me all the time telling me thanks for all that I am doing with Jekyll Island.

"It's like if someone has a candy jar on their desk. Some people lift the lid to take the candy, but some people break the jar to get a piece out. We just want to keep the jar from being broken."

Eric Garvey, senior director of marketing for the Jekyll Island Authority, doesn't see it that way. The bills proposed by Chapman are essentially an effort to end new construction and rebuilding on the island, he said.

"These bills are a far departure from the guidance given to us by the Jekyll Legislative Oversight Committee and the governor," said Garvey. "If this legislation were to pass, it would effectively stop our efforts to revitalize Jekyll Island."

Under state law, only 35 percent of Jekyll Island can be developed, while 65 percent must remain untouched.

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