Saturday, March 29, 2008

03/29 - Bid to stall Jekyll fails

Date: March 29, 2008
Section(s): Local News
By ANNA FERGUSON
The Brunswick News

A backdoor legislative attempt to keep hotels and condos away from the main beach on Jekyll Island has failed.

While that is good news for backers of a $342 million revitalization plan for the state park, it is bad news for government agencies counting on approval of the Coastal Zone Management Act to which the construction ban was attached.

Stopping the amendment on Jekyll Island also means stopping the legislation to which it was attached. The primary coastal management legislation would have extended the 2009 expiration date of the act that allows the state the receive federal funds for coastal projects.

The total measure fell by the wayside when Sen. Ross Tolleson, R-Perry, declined to push to have it added to the House Rules Committee calendar because of Rep. Debbie Buckner's, D-Columbus, amendment on Jekyll Island.

Tolleson had sponsored the original legislation to remove a sunset provision in the coastal management act that would allow it to expire in July 2009. All legislation must pass through a House or Senate rules committee in order to get a floor vote in the full body.

Buckner had added the amendment earlier this month in an attempt to halt the redevelopment of Jekyll Island, said Rep. Roger Lane, R-Darien.

The amendment included conditions that would block construction near a half-mile portion of open beach.

"Sen. Tolleson was very upset with Rep. Buckner's addition to his bill," said Lane. "He just threw his hands up, I guess."

House Majority Leader Jerry Keen, R-St. Simons Island, said he expects Tolleson to reintroduce the measure during next year's legislative session, sans Buckner's amendment. Keen is a member of the rules committee.

Waiting a year to pass the legislation could be a risky move, but the redevelopment plans for Jekyll Island are too important to endanger and Buckner's amendment would have done just that, Lane said.

As a member of the Natural Resources and Environment Committee, Lane said he voted against the amendment earlier this month.

"The Coastal Zone Management Act is very important legislation, and it's disheartening that this amendment got in the way of it," Lane said. "But the revitalization of Jekyll Island is too serious to jeopardize."

The Coastal Zone Management Act works with the Federal Coastal Management Act to generate funds for conservation, rehabilitation and education efforts along Georgia's coastline.

Sen. Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick, a supporter of Buckner's legislation, said he was disappointed with the bill's fate, but said "all kinds of things can happen during the legislative process."

Chapman introduced measures of his own in the Senate to accomplish the same objectives as Buckner sought earlier in the session, but his proposals failed to make it out of committee.

Eric Garvey, spokesman for the Jekyll Island Authority, said the failure of Buckner's amendment means the redevelopment project, which includes hotels, condos and a new convention center, is still on go.

"The Jekyll Island Authority has felt that the amendment was completely unnecessary," Garvey said Friday. "And it's regrettable that it has jeopardized an important piece of environmental legislation."

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