Saturday, March 29, 2008

03/26 - Jekyll bill awaits uncertain fate

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

An amendment that would force a major change in plans to revitalize Jekyll Island awaits legislators when they return to Atlanta, but Glynn County's top-ranking House member is refraining from predicting an outcome.

House Majority Leader Jerry Keen, R-St. Simons, has supported the redevelopment plans for the state park as chair of the Jekyll Island Legislative Oversight Committee, but he said he could not speculate on the fate of the amendment.

Keen is a member of the House Rules Committee, the next body that will consider the amendment and determine wether the House will take it up.

Introduced last week by Rep. Debbie Buckner, D-Columbus, the amendment, piggy-backing Senate legislation that would remove an upcoming expiration date of the Georgia Coastal Zone Management Act, is aimed at halting the $342 million renovation project planned for the state-owned island by Linger Longer Communities. It squeaked by the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee Thursday by a single vote.

The amendment would block construction of condominiums and luxury accommodations on a half-mile stretch of beachfront property on Jekyll Island, a vital part of Linger Longer Communities renovation blueprint.

Buckner and her supporters, including Sen. Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick, say the amendment is an effort to preserve the island.

"Thousands of people from around the state are following this day by day and are in support of responsible rebuilding," said Chapman, adding that supporters have started an e-mail campaign to legislators.

"The folks at Linger Longer would be wise to embrace this amendment and listen to the people. This is what they want."

Susan Shipman, director of the Coastal Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, says the measure puts the state Coastal Management Act in jeopardy and is distressed about the overall ramifications of the legislature's failure if an extension to the act is not passed.

"I am very concerned about this amendment," said Shipman. "It puts area conservation efforts at risk."

The act was created in 1997 to allow the state to participate in the Federal Coastal Management Act.

It provides grants and funding for area organizations to rehabilitate and conserve sensitive areas of the coast. A sunset provision calls for the act to expire July 2009, and cease to exist if the measure is turned down in the current legislative session.

No comments: