Friday, February 29, 2008

02/27 - Jekyll Island counters senator's claims. Park authority says it didn't fail to report revenues > Metro
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 02/27/08

The Jekyll Island State Park Authority on Wednesday counter-punched a state senator who accused the authority of withholding financial information to make the case for developing and refurbishing the barrier island.

In a statement, authority chairman Ben Porter said Sen. Jeff Chapman (R-Brunswick) "grossly and deliberately misrepresented facts" in a news release issued by the senator on Tuesday. Porter said the authority has not withheld financial information, nor did it fail to report $11 million in revenues over ten years as charged by Chapman.

The authority has cited lack of revenues and declining visitors to promote redevelopment.

"Mr. Chapman's repeated attempts to derail the revitalization of Jekyll Island have failed. Now, he has resorted to false claims to further his effort," said Porter, a Macon businessman who has developed coastal property.

Chapman last year led the charge to prevent development on south end of the island.

Last year, the authority approved a developer's plan to add 1,100 hotel, condo, cottage and time-share units to the park. The $352 million, 64-acre project would require demolishing the existing convention center and a parking lot on the beach.

In his Tuesday news release, Chapman also said a mid-1990s change in the way visitors are counted explains the big drop cited by the authority. Porter stood by the authority's numbers, saying convention business, hotel occupancy, golf courses, the Water Park and all visitation to Jekyll have declined in recent years.

Chapman could not immediately be reached for comment.

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