Friday, February 29, 2008

02/26 - Jekyll plan opposition taken in stride

Date: February 26, 2008
Section(s): Local News
The Brunswick News

Jim Langford remains calm in the face of adversity.

Despite a row of hurdles tossed his way in recent weeks, he has yet to break a sweat.

As project manager for the revitalization Linger Longer Communities is proposing for Jekyll Island, Langford has met with supporters and opponents, backers and detractors.

The $341 million plan calls for new hotels, convention center and condominiums.

Opposition is not unexpected. And it's not as bad as it sounds, he said.

"We expected to have opposition to our plan," Langford said. "But everything is still very much on track. We're not deterred in the least."

Resistance to the plan as outlined by the Jekyll Island Authority and Linger Longer, its private sector partner, extends all the way to the Georgia General Assembly, where bills introduced in the House and Senate threaten to stop or alter the project in a major way.

The most recent legislation was introduced Thursday in the Georgia General Assembly by Democrats, who are calling for greater preservation efforts to be utilized in the redevelopment plan for the island. Introduced by Rep. Debbie Buckner, D-Columbus, House Bill 1289 calls for revitalization of the island to be energy efficient, affordable and away from Jekyll's sand dunes.

The Democratic bill comes several weeks after Sen. Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick, announced a few measures of his own. Chapman, a long-time opponent to Linger Longer's $341 million revamping blueprint, introduced bills earlier this month that would essentially put an end to the project.

Despite the newly launched measures, the Linger Longer agenda is moving forward with overwhelming support from local government, the business community and the Jekyll Island Legislative Oversight Committee, Langford said.

"We still feel that we are being supported," he said. "These new bills are pretty unreasonable and we think that is pretty obvious."

Ed Boshears, former state senator and a member of the board of the Jekyll Island Authority, doesn't understand why debate over the new legislative measures is necessary. Linger Longer's plans are not set in stone and are in the process of being reworked, he said.

In other words, it's too soon to take sides, he said.

"I don't see what everyone is so worked up about," Boshears said. "The Linger Longer plan has yet to be finalized. We don't know what the exact plan will be yet.

Everyone is looking at this as if it's either-or. Either you are for Linger Longer or against it. But you can be for Linger Longer without being for every aspect of their plan."

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