Monday, February 25, 2008

02/24 - Jekyll tug-of-war starts anew

IMAGE: Critics of the Linger Longer plan to revitalize Jekyll Island worry that it will discourage visitors from seeing the beaches on the east side of the island.

The Florida Times-Union
February 24, 2008
By Brandon Larrabee,
The Times-Union

ATLANTA - The Battle of Jekyll Island is raging again at the state Capitol.

Lawmakers and residents frustrated with plans to revitalize the state park's sagging tourist infrastructure have returned to the site of their victory last year to try to win more protections for Jekyll's beaches and the middle-income Georgians they say are being forgotten.

This time, though, they face greater resistance than in last year's successful campaign and charges that legislative meddling could undermine an attempt to bring visitors back to a park some say is fading from the memory of many would-be vacationers.

Both sides paint the looming legislative battle as a struggle for the island's soul.

Backers of legislation sponsored by Sen. Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick, say they're trying to preserve the island's historic mission to be open and accessible to people of all incomes and from all walks of life - the very Georgians they say would be discouraged from coming to Jekyll under the plans of politically connected developer Linger Longer Communities.

"If they manage to shoot this down, they will essentially have a free hand to do with that state park whatever they please," Chapman said.

Linger Longer counters that it is simply trying to renew interest in the island, where visitation has been headed downward, and to make it a prime vacation spot once more.

"We're just trying to make it what it should be," said Jim Langford, the executive overseeing the Jekyll project.

The steepest challenge facing Chapman and his supporters, though, might simply be getting a chance to be heard.

Return to the battleground

For Chapman, it's a return to an issue that brought him key legislative victories in last year's session. Holding a firm Senate majority, Chapman managed to attach a measure preserving the island's ecologically fragile South end onto a bill extending the Jekyll Island Authority lease.

That lease measure was a key goal of the authority, which said it needed a long-term agreement with the state to persuade developers to build on Jekyll.

Chapman's new proposals aim to do three things:

- Define certain terms in the agreement, like "lowest rates reasonable and possible," that have caused many of the clashes;

- Severely restrict new development on the island's beaches; and,

- Bar new residential leases at state parks like Jekyll.

One of the key battlegrounds has become the proposal to try to limit development east of Beach View Drive, a move that Chapman and his supporters say would keep one of the island's most popular beaches open to most visitors.

The Linger Longer plan would use some of that land for a new town center complex that is anathema to opponents of the developer's proposal.

"It's a million-dollar view for the family who doesn't have a million dollars," Chapman said.

Chapman's proposals would also limit prices at new hotels built on the island, a key concern for residents worried about the island shirking its traditional role as a low-price destination.

"What we're seeing is a steady trend upward with the price of the Linger Longer project," said Dory Ingram, a volunteer lobbyist for the grass-roots Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island.

But Langford said the seemingly benign bills advanced by Chapman really have another goal: To kill the development plan entirely.

"It's designed to shut down revitalization, essentially, or any serious attempt at revitalization," Langford said.

He said the proposals for hotel rooms amounts to a price control, and ignores the fact that 72 percent of the rooms brought to Jekyll under the Linger Longer plan would go for less than $139 a night.

And pushing new development west of Beach View Drive could put pressure on wetlands, the Historic District and similar key assets, Langford said.

"There are a number of things west of Beach View that I think should be avoided," he said.

Island access debated

Much of the resistance to the developers' proposals comes from residents who don't want to see the island revitalized and who, in fact, would like to keep the island from becoming a key tourist attraction again, Langford said.

"They really don't want more Georgians to come to Jekyll, and that's not the Jekyll Island that Jekyll was meant to be," he said.

Ingram and Chapman both said they would like to see the island's hotels and accommodations redeveloped. Chapman said that Linger Longer is essentially telling the state: Trust us.

"What I'm proposing is in black and white and easy to understand," he said. "What they're proposing is all verbal."

Critics of Linger Longer also note that the $139 nightly room rental figure comes from including every individual room in a condominium, for instance, as part of the average.

That's not an uncommon practice in the hospitality industry, Langford counters, and in fact accounts for the fact that some groups use time-share condos for a limited time when they go to stay on the beach.

Stuck in committee

For now, the priority for Chapman and his supporters is to get the bills out of the Senate Economic Development Committee, where they've been parked for more than two weeks.

Chairman Chip Pearson, R-Dawsonville, said last week he's asked the Jekyll Island Authority whether the proposals would harm attempts to revitalize the park.

"We want to make sure that we're not undermining completely those efforts that have already been determined," Pearson said.

Once the authority provides Pearson with the information he's asked for, the chairman said, he'll make a decision on whether to hear the bills.

Chapman said he's received no guarantees from Pearson or Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who heads the Senate, on whether or when the proposals will come before Pearson's committee. He and others are aware that, unlike last year's lease bill, the Jekyll Island Authority and its supporters don't need any legislation this year.

"Having spoken to the lieutenant governor, I want to believe that the people of Georgia are going to have an opportunity to have their legislation heard and voted on," Chapman said.

But while Cagle left open the possibility Chapman's bills could be heard, he also made it clear last week that the Jekyll bills might not have enough leadership support to move forward.

"I don't know that the appetite among the General Assembly is real strong to try to micromanage the process," he said.,

(678) 977-3709

what they are saying Backers of legislation to preserve Jekyll Island's historic mission: "If they manage to shoot this down, they will essentially have a free hand to do with that state park whatever they please." - State Sen. Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick Backers of plans to develop the state park: "We're just trying to make it what it should be." - Jim Langford, executive overseeing the Jekyll project

This story can be found on at

02/21 - Brunswick sees more protests

The Florida Times-Union
February 21, 2008
The Times-Union

BRUNSWICK - From protecting sea turtle nests from a big oceanfront development to protecting Brunswick from a big jail, protesters are busy this week.

Dressed as a loggerhead turtle, Bonnie Newell stalked the sidewalk Wednesday in front of City Hall to argue against the City Commission's consideration of a resolution favoring plans to build condominiums and shops overlooking the beach on Jekyll Island.

The proposed commercial, hotel and residential center is intended to draw more visitors to the island while replacing an aging convention center and shopping center. Mayor Bryan Thompson said he liked the proposal as drawn by Linger Longer Communities, the Jekyll Island State Park Authority's chosen developer, because it is friendly to the environment. The commissioners were to consider the resolution Wednesday night.

Defend Downtown Brunswick, a citizens group, has promised to stage its third protest at 5:30 tonight at a Glynn County Commission meeting. The group wants the commission to abandon its plans to expand the Glynn County Detention Center downtown and instead relocate it.

The county already has bought up property across the street from the jail and torn down houses in preparation for the expansion. More than 300 people protested before and during the Feb. 7 meeting, in which the County Commission adopted a resolution confirming its plans to expand the jail.

This story can be found on at

02/24 - Jekyll questions call for careful answers

For the Journal-Constitution
Published on: 02/24/08

In his column "Jekyll Authority sensitive to public input" (@issue, Feb. 14), Eric Garvey states that "A small number of vocal critics have raised questions" about the authority's efforts and its mission.

Let's define some terms here. "A small number of vocal critics" shall be defined as 6,000 responses to surveys posted online by the Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island. Ninety-five percent define revitalization of the island as rebuilding or refurbishing existing hotels, the convention center and retail district, and expanding family dining opportunities.

"Sensitive to public input" should be defined as listening to diverse public opinions, making plans based on input, and being willing to slow down, ask questions and alter your agenda if thousands are passionately opposed to it.

Ingram is metro Atlanta coordinator, Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island.

02/19 - Jekyll developers rev their PR machine

By Steve Lowe, Annie Frazer, Jeffrey Weaver, Diane Shearer, Fred Moss
For the Journal-Constitution
Published on: 02/19/08

Jekyll developers rev their PR machine

I disagree with Eric Garvey's disingenuous assertion that "only a small number of vocal critics have raised questions" about redevelopment on Jekyll and only since Linger Longer was chosen in fall 2007 ("Jekyll Authority sensitive to public input" @issue, Feb. 14). The issues first came to my attention when I read an article in the AJC in December 2006. Horrified to find the Jekyll Island Authority and various legislators speaking up for massive development, I have been speaking out ever since. The JIA and Linger Longer thought they could just bulldoze through whatever they deemed appropriate. Otherwise, why no environmental impact study in the beginning? Now that they have serious public opposition, they have gone into full-assault public relations.


02/14 - Jekyll Authority sensitive to public input

By Eric Garvey
For the Journal-Constitution
Published on: 02/14/08

The Jekyll Island State Park Authority is not accustomed to making headlines or stirring up controversy. Most of our work here involves things like protecting sea turtle nests, preserving historic sites, serving conventioneers, taking care of vacation guests and maintaining some of the country's most natural and pristine beaches.

But since last fall, when the authority chose a private revitalization partner to assist us in redeveloping the central area of the island, a small number of vocal critics have raised questions and, frankly, have spread misinformation about the authority's efforts and its mission.

The General Assembly created the authority in 1950 to manage Jekyll Island, a state-owned coastal treasure to be enjoyed by all Georgians. Each day we work hard to be trustworthy stewards, conserving the island's vast natural and cultural resources through the use of revenues generated by providing services, programs and amenities that maximize benefits to everyone on the island.

To accomplish our mission, we must attract visitors to Jekyll Island each year and generate enough revenue to keep state taxpayers from paying the substantial cost of running the island.

Faced with lagging attendance and declining revenue, the authority launched an effort to revitalize its aging hotels, shops and convention center. Because most of the structures were built in the 1960s, it was clear that the change was going to involve a great amount of redevelopment. The authority is not a real estate developer, and it made good sense to find a high-quality private partner to help us.

In September, the authority concluded a public Request for Proposal by selecting Georgia-based Linger Longer Communities as our revitalization partner. In its proposal, Linger Longer presented a beach village concept that would create a wonderful new destination on the island.

Understandably, there have been questions about the revitalization, but there are a number of key facts that the public should know:

> The beach village proposal is a concept plan. This is not a final plan, and public input is being used to change and enhance it. The authority, working with Linger Longer, will take as much time as needed to ensure we have a plan that limits impact on the natural environment, returns reasonable revenue to the authority and best serves the people of Georgia.

> The beach village concept plan is contained, for the most part, to previously developed areas, where the aging convention center and strip shopping center sit. It covers less than 2 percent of the island, and our final plan will improve both the view and access to this beach area.

> There are no plans to build on the beach. All construction will be behind the natural sand dunes and will comply with Georgia's Shoreline Protection laws.

> The beach village will be a model for environmentally sensitive development, using Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and EarthCraft standards for all new construction. Jekyll Island will be the first coastal area to do this.

> The authority has repeatedly committed to making sure that Jekyll Island (including the new beach village) will remain affordable and accessible to all Georgians.

The beach village plan was recently discussed in a series of public meetings throughout Georgia. Linger Longer and authority representatives have been touring the state talking with civic groups and environmental organizations, as well as many Jekyll Island and Georgia residents in their homes.

The authority's board of directors and the Jekyll Legislative Oversight Committee have also held public sessions, the most recent on Jan. 15 at the state Capitol. The bulk of these meetings have been dedicated to hearing public feedback.

Our critics, though vocal, are a minority. Many people across the state, from business leaders to island residents to regular guests, support the plan to enhance the offerings on Jekyll Island.

While recently in Brunswick, Gov. Sonny Perdue gave strong words of support for Jekyll Island's revitalization. The Legislative Oversight Committee, including its leaders, Senate Majority Leader Tommie Williams and House Majority Leader Jerry Keen, also have commended the progress to date.

The Glynn County Commission has publicly endorsed the plans, as has the Brunswick/Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce. The Tourism Development Alliance of Georgia voted to support Jekyll Island revitalization, and meeting planners from around the state have committed more than $25 million in new business if the plans progress.

Over the past 15 years, Georgians have voted with their wallets —- by not coming to Jekyll Island as they used to, instead spending their beach vacations in other states. That silent, but powerful, vote demonstrates a need for change.

Based on public input that we continue to receive, the authority, with Linger Longer, is making revisions to its plans, and we expect to release a revised version this spring. The revised concept will again welcome an additional round of public comment and review.

In addition, we will continue to welcome all Georgians to Jekyll Island, care for sea turtles and restore our historic sites. And to help provide ongoing facts, we will post updated information at

> Eric Garvey is senior director of marketing and business development at the Jekyll Island State Park Authority.

02/13 - COUNTDOWN 2008: McCain taps Bush donor base, fund-raiser

By Elisabeth Bumiller
New York Times
Published on: 02/13/08

Washington —- Sen. John McCain began tapping into President Bush's prized political donor base on Tuesday as his campaign announced that Mercer Reynolds, who helped Bush raise a record $273 million for the 2004 re-election campaign, would be the national finance co-chairman for McCain.

The development was a major sign that the Republican financial establishment was coalescing around the Arizona senator, who has often been at odds with his own party, particularly conservatives.

It also signaled that Bush's political apparatus was moving into action for McCain, a onetime insurgent and competitor to Bush in 2000 who has had a difficult relationship with the president.

Reynolds is a wealthy Cincinnati executive and a former ambassador to Switzerland who with his family developed the Reynolds Plantation on Georgia's Lake Oconee and whose development company, Linger Longer Communities, is currently involved in a controversial plan for development on Jekyll Island.

McCain's advisers said Reynolds would be of enormous help in reaching out to the president's most valued contributors —- the Bush campaign called them Rangers and Pioneers —- on behalf of McCain.

"He knows them all, and hopefully we'll get them on board," said Charles Black, a senior adviser to McCain.

Advisers to both men said on Tuesday that the once-strained relationship between the president and McCain had improved and that Bush, who vouched for McCain as a "true conservative" in a television interview last weekend, would do whatever he was asked by his party's nominee.

Reynolds declined to be interviewed for this article.

02/11 - Jekyll Island: Revitalize, but sensitively > Opinion
Published on: 02/11/08

On Feb. 6, state Sen. Jeff Chapman (R-Brunswick) introduced three bills on Jekyll Island. The bills, which prohibit development along Jekyll Island State Park's remaining open beachfront and help ensure that the park is revitalized in a responsible fashion, bring to a head a controversy that's been brewing for nearly a year. A brief review of "developments" on Jekyll in recent months shows why Chapman's legislative initiative has become necessary and is so welcomed by Jekyll's friends.

Everyone agrees that Jekyll Island State Park is in need of revitalization. Its oceanfront hotels have deteriorated, public dissatisfaction with its lodgings has grown, and visits have fallen off.

Unfortunately, the Jekyll Island Authority made a decision some months ago that revitalization requires not just hotel reconstruction but an oceanfront "town center" as well. Accordingly, the JIA is now considering a proposal by a private developer — Linger Longer Communities — that would create a condo/time share/hotel community along the island's most popular public beach.

Even though public opinion is running strongly against the proposed town center complex, LLC is marketing the project as something Jekyll needs and the people of Georgia want. Citing a 47 percent decline in visitation to Jekyll over the past decade, LLC says its Jekyll Village is necessary if Georgians are to "rediscover Jekyll."

Truth be told, most of the reported 47 percent drop in visitation comes from a change in the JIA's traffic-count method. Beginning in 1997, the JIA stopped including vehicles with annual passes as part of its traffic count, leading to an artificial drop of 40 percent in visitation (1.5 million people) in that year alone. The facts show that when the change in traffic-count methodology is taken into account, the real drop in visitation since 1997 has been 12 percent, not 47 percent.

Even if there were a 47 percent drop in visitation, there isn't any evidence that Georgians are longing for a town center and would "rediscover Jekyll" if only the island had a "commercial hub," as LLC claims. In fact, visitor opinion, as recorded in a series of surveys reaching more than 8,000 people, says "no" to a more commercialized Jekyll and "yes" to revitalization that is in harmony with Jekyll's feel and grace.

Visitor opinion also says hotel reconstruction will revitalize Jekyll and should be completed before the JIA thinks about more development. The hotels that have been rebuilt in recent years enjoy fill rates nearly double those of the hotels in disrepair and waiting for redevelopment. Five other hotels will be rebuilt over the next five years. When hotel redevelopment is completed, Jekyll will have nearly twice as many hotel rooms and condos as it does now, and a projected increase in revenue of more than $3 million per year for the JIA.

The JIA has labeled the critics of the town center proposal as "obstructionists" who are opposed to all change. The truth is that Jekyll's visitors stand for responsible revitalization. They support hotel and convention center redevelopment, the enhancement of the island's amenities and recreational opportunities, the further development of Jekyll's nature tourism potential and a ban on new development near Jekyll's environmentally sensitive areas, particularly the beachfront of this delicate barrier island.

In a representative democracy, elected leaders must be sensitive to the will of the people if democracy is to have any meaning at all. Chapman clearly understands this bedrock principle of representational government. His Jekyll bills were born in response to public sentiment, clear the way for the revitalization of public property and benefit the vast majority of our state's citizens.

A senator acting on behalf of the general will is what good government is all about. Now it is up to the people of Georgia to do their part by urging lawmakers to support Chapman's Jekyll bills. Please visit for information on how to proceed in this regard.

• David Egan is co-director of the Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island State Park.

02/10 -Jekyll Island: Responses to "A more constructive approach to the Jekyll Island issue," @issue, Feb. 5 > Opinion
By Martin McConaughy, Joan Lardin
For the Journal-Constitution
Published on: 02/10/08

Get parties together so they can talk

Art Hurt is right on the mark with his opinion column on listening to public input. We need to sit down at the table to discuss things and not rely on meetings, hearings and forums, where so much furor can divide rather than bring together. Striving to meet the needs of all parties concerned with the Jekyll Island situation would be a great place to start.


Keep the island a serene haven

The Jekyll Island Authority has gone ahead in juggernaut style with its plans to build a giant resort complex at Jekyll Island State Park. The outcry against this project has been tremendous, but mostly ignored or scorned as the ravings of people who don't realize what a fantastic "economic engine" such a development would be. And the Authority has strongly hinted to competing developers that the Linger Longer resort project is only the beginning of potential new construction on Jekyll Island.

Any honest sampling of public opinion would demonstrate that most Georgians do not want Jekyll Island to become an "economic engine" or a resort/shopping destination. They want it to remain the beautiful, natural, serene and laid-back state park and accessible beach haven for ordinary people that it has always been.


02/08 - Oversize project will harm Jekyll > Opinion
By Greg Lowery
For the Journal-Constitution
Published on: 02/08/08

Oversize project will harm Jekyll

The opinion column by Art Hurt offers a reasonable solution to the Jekyll Island development controversy ("A more constructive approach to the Jekyll Island issue," @issue, Feb. 5). Up to this point, public input has been "invited" but seems to have had minimal impact. Jekyll Island is a tranquil place that needs revitalization. But why can't new construction be done within the current developed footprint? Why not utilize input from visitors who have no financial stake in the island's development? Several new hotels are already planned on the sites of declining and razed properties. The proposed Town Square Center, however, is an exercise in the excessive. The hundreds of condos and timeshares in that plan would forever alter the serene character of a fragile barrier island. It would destroy what Georgia loves most about Jekyll.

Will Gov. Sonny Perdue and the Legislature allow this oversize, profit-driven plan to proceed? Do they have more dollars than sense?


02/07 - Bills would crimp Jekyll development > Metro
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 02/07/08

State Sen. Jeff Chapman (R-Brunswick) again is making a pitch to fellow lawmakers to restrict development on Jekyll Island.

Chapman, whose district includes the 7.5-mile-long barrier island, introduced three bills in the General Assembly on Wednesday that would effectively quash major development.

The state-owned island is poised for hundreds of millions of dollars in redevelopment in a proposal that has angered environmentalists and some longtime residents.

During the fall, the Jekyll Island Authority selected Linger Longer to develop a $352 million "town center" project. The builder, based in Greensboro, wants to build 1,100 hotel, condo and time-share units along Jekyll's beach. The authority would cover $84.5 million in bonds for new roads, parking and a convention center. The project would be east of Beachview Drive.

Chapman said most Georgians want to preserve the island as it is. He said he wants "responsible revitalization:" rebuilding of old hotels that have fallen into disrepair and fixing of existing properties. He also said he wants construction built west of the coastal roadway so that Jekyll's public beach remains accessible to all.

Jim Langford, the project executive for Linger Longer, said Chapman's plan "is not reasonable or in the best interest" of the island. Langford said that Chapman is trying to derail the redevelopment proposal.

02/05 - A more constructive approach to the Jekyll Island issue > Opinion
Published on: 02/05/08

The heated controversy over the master plan for Jekyll Island redevelopment was so unnecessary, so predictable and so avoidable that we must ask ourselves, "What were they thinking?"

It is a fact of life that, when redevelopment is considered in an environmentally sensitive area, there will always be differences of opinion, with the developers, architects and engineers on one side and the environmentalists and conservationists on the other. They will differ in mind-set, in goals and in perception of what is to be accomplished by the redevelopment process.

This is often a problem in private property zoning matters but is a far greater problem when it involves public property — Jekyll Island, for instance.

When public property is involved, the end product, the final plan, is going to have to be seen by both sides as a satisfactory amalgamation of acceptable compromises, resulting in not exactly what each wanted but in a plan each side can accept and support.

From the beginning, this simple concept has gone right over the heads of members of the Jekyll Island Authority, the managing body for the island, as they have missed opportunity after opportunity to form a cooperative and helpful alliance with the public, which owns and uses the property.

With regard to the master plan for redevelopment, JIA has willfully and systematically excluded the public from any participation in the planning process. They have neither sought, nor allowed, any input from the public, and they have ignored pleas from the public for information and for opportunities to submit ideas for consideration for Jekyll's future. They have sought council only with the real estate developers. The public has reacted to being ignored and dismissed. Thus, JIA has created this ugly squabble.

A logical way to begin such an endeavor would be with widely distributed questionnaires, town hall meetings, hearings, requests for letters of suggested plan components, and the appointment of a citizen committee to collect and compile the wishes of the public into a coherent contribution to the master plan. Then this should go to the developers, architects and engineers in the form of a guideline as to what should be accomplished.

Without such a guideline, the developers will naturally proceed in their own mind-set and design a project to maximize their bottom line, something unacceptable to the public. With such guidelines, project development could proceed without the rancor, without the useless waste of time and money and without all the destructive political infighting.

Having been active participants, the public, when a plan is finally rolled out, could not quarrel about it, the developers would be seen in a positive light, the architects would have saved money by avoiding unrealistic designs, and the JIA would have done its job.

To steer the JIA toward this type of approach would take a directive from the governor and from our Legislature.

Those who want to see a more reasonable approach taken by the JIA should contact Gov. Sonny Perdue and their state legislators and request a change of direction.

Maybe, just maybe, it is not too late. Jekyll Island is worth the effort.

02/01 - How does one become a board member of the Jekyll Island Authority, and how does one become chairman of this board?


Q: How does one become a board member of the Jekyll Island Authority, and how does one become chairman of this board?


A: The authority's board has nine members; one is either the head of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources or someone designated by him. The other eight are selected by the governor and serve four-year terms. Two of the eight must be residents of Chatham, Bryan, Liberty, McIntosh, Glynn or Camden counties. Jekyll is part of Glynn County.

The chairman can chair two consecutive one-year terms or two terms in four years. The current chair is Ben Porter of Macon. Board members don't get paid for their service but can be reimbursed for expenses.

Staff researchers Sharon Gaus and Richard Hallman wrote this column.

Do you have a question about the news? Our news researchers will try to get an answer. Call 404-222-2002 or e-mail q& (include your name and city). Sorry, individual responses are not possible.

02/25 - New bill addresses Jekyll

Mon, Feb 25, 2008
The Brunswick News

Jekyll Island is Georgia's Jewel, and Democrats in the state House of Representatives want to make sure it stays that way.

A bill introduced Thursday in the Georgia General Assembly calls for keeping Jekyll Island a natural paradise, although it is not intended to halt Linger Longer Communities redevelopment plans, said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Debbie Buckner, D-Columbus.

The legislation, House Bill 548, would create energy efficient and green building practices on the island. It also would restrict building on the beachfront property and keep the island affordable to all Georgians.

"We want the redevelopment plan to be environmentally friendly, and we want it to be in the footprints of buildings that are already there," Buckner said. "We also want to know that this will always be a place families can afford to go, and right now, we have questions about that."

Plans proposed by the Jekyll Island Authority and its private sector partner, Linger Longer, call for a $341 million revitalization that will include new hotels and condominiums, as well as a new convention center and retail district.

Buckner's bill is not wholly dissimilar to legislation introduced earlier in the session by Sen. Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick, who opposes the Linger Longer Communities blueprint for redevelopment.

The key difference, Buckner said, is that her bill coincides with Linger Longer plans for energy efficient development and is not calling for the halting of planned construction.

She added, however, that "This bill could impact the Linger Longer plans, but that is not the key purpose."
Ben Porter, chair of the Jekyll Island Authority, doesn't see it her way. He said the measure would drastically change their plans for the island.

"Like the Chapman bills, the proposed House legislation would prohibit the revitalization of Jekyll Island and prevent the improvements which will make Jekyll the most desirable, environmentally-friendly destination on the American coast," Porter said in an email.

Buckner said her actions come from a deep-rooted love for Jekyll, where she spent her childhood riding bikes along the island's sandy shores.

"My grandfather had a bike shop on Norwich Street and we would get bikes there and ride around Jekyll," she said. "We introduced this bill because we just want to keep Jekyll unique. We want it to be beautiful and enjoyed for hundreds of years to come."

Others signing HB 548 include Reps. Brian Thomas, D-Lilburn, Dubose Porter, D-Dublin, Barbara Massey Reece, D-Menlo, and Stephanie Benfield, D-Atlanta.

David Egan, founder of the Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island, said he favors the legislation. He said Buckner's bill falls in step with many measures his organization is hoping to enforce.

"Buckner's bill seems promising," Egan said. "Any bill that seeks to keep the beachfront property protected, we support."

02/22 - Jekyll plan opponents need to learn the facts

Date February 22, 2008
Section(s) Commentary
It's easy to get people to object to a project, especially when they allow someone to define it without studying or, at the very least, eyeballing the plan themselves. That tends to happen quite often.

It's happening right here, in Brunswick and the Golden Isles. Opponents of the proposed major redevelopment of previously developed property and public facilities on Jekyll Island claim the plan will rob Georgians of what is rightly theirs.

Not true. What has been proposed by the Jekyll Island Authority and Linger Longer Communities will take up only a fraction of the state park. For the most part, it will replace what is already there. The difference is that it will be newer, better, more attractive - and hence, more likely to be used by citizens of the Peach State.

Here's another fact: It is still well within the 35 percent development mark established and set by the state legislature decades ago.

Fortunately, city and county officials in this community, most of whom are aware of Jekyll Island's difficulty in drawing a crowd these days, understand this. Fortunately, they are familiar with the plan to improve and strengthen the state park's magnetism. And fortunately, the majority are willing to say so in an official vote. City commissioners endorsed the concept during their regular session Wednesday. County commissioners, already on record as backing revitalization, did likewise Thursday, passing a resolution reaffirming their support.

What Linger Longer Communities is planning is something that would be nice for everyone, for all Georgians and for every visitor and guest who crosses the state line to vacation here. In addition to having a nice place to spend with family, they would have a destination that they could enjoy, as well as learn about, nature and the coastal environment.

And if, in the meantime, their presence in greater numbers yields jobs and higher incomes for individuals and families - well, that's a good thing, right?

Honestly, it's hard to see what all the fuss is about. As has been stated frequently in previous editorials, there is no way on earth that Jekyll Island could ever become another Myrtle Beach or Hilton Head Island. Those who make such claims are speaking without thinking. There is that 35/65 development ratio, for starters.

Besides, that is not what Jekyll Island is all about. It's about family, enjoying the outdoors, sipping on nature. That is the island's greatest asset and the very asset that any prudent developer would ardently protect.

02/22 - County approves Jekyll resolution

Date: February 22, 2008
Section(s): Local News

The Glynn County Commission has confirmed its support for the redevelopment of Jekyll Island and given the residents of the Nottinghill Subdivision an opportunity to work out their differences with Lamar Outdoor Advertising.

The commission approved a resolution supporting the Jekyll Island Authority's efforts to make the island self supporting during its regularly scheduled meeting Thursday.

The meeting was held at the Historic Glynn County Courthouse, 701 G St, Brunswick.

Who was there: County commissioners Cap Fendig, Howard Lynn, Uli Keller, Tony Thaw, Jerome Clark and Carl Johnson. Commission chairman Don Hogan was also present.

What happened: The commission deferred a request from Lamar Advertising Company to raise the height of an existing sign along Interstate-95 from 25 feet to 70 feet because it is being covered from view by a noise retention wall being constructed by the Department of Transportation.

The current sign is directly behind, and is visible from, the Nottinghill Subdivision. Representatives from the subdivision's homeowner's association attended the meeting protesting the request.

Instead of acting on the request, the commission deferred taking action for 30 days to allow the residents and advertising company an opportunity to reach a compromise independently.

The commission also:

* Approved rezoning properties at 5102 and 4972 Highway 99 from forest agriculture to planned development.

Thoughts on the Lamar Advertising sign: "I understand that there is opposition from the residents of Nottinghill. I understand they fought hard for the retention wall and want to protect their property value, but I'm here because we want to protect the value of Lamar's property also."

- Linda Storey, general manager of Lamar Outdoor Advertising

- Report by Brandee A. Thomas

02/21 - City gives support to Jekyll plan

Date: February 21, 2008
Section(s): Local News
The Brunswick News

The Brunswick City Commission has joined the ranks of Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue in voicing support for Jekyll Island revitalization plans.

At its regularly scheduled meeting Wednesday, the commission voted to approve a resolution stating that "the City of Brunswick fully supports the revitalization of Jekyll Island as envisioned by the Jekyll Island State Park Authority."

"My opinion is that they have a very solid plan," said Mayor Bryan Thompson during the meeting at Historic City Hall, 1229 Newcastle St. "This resolution is our way of saying we support (the Jekyll Island Authority's) efforts toward responsible redevelopment."

Commissioner Cornell Harvey, who is the human resources director for the Jekyll Island Authority, recused himself from the discussion and subsequent vote concerning the resolution.

Commissioners Mark Spaulding, Jonathan Williams and Thompson voted in favor of the resolution, but Commissioner James Brooks voted against it.

"Sen. (Jeff) Chapman has just introduced some legislation in the Senate and personally I don't want to jump the gun on this," Brooks said.

"I would like to have a dialog with our senators and representatives about what's going on in Atlanta first, before we vote on this."

Although Brooks was against the vote, other members spoke in defense of passing the resolution.

"What happens in Atlanta (in the General Assembly) will play out whether or not we pass this resolution," said Spaulding. "But I think it's important we take a stand and support the work that the (Jekyll Island Authority) has done to revitalize Jekyll."

Before the meeting, island resident Steve Newell passed out literature protesting the passing of the resolution.

His wife Bonnie, dressed as "Caretta the loggerhead turtle," carried a sign that read "Don't build on our public beach."

"I just think this plan is unfair to the public and we wish the mayor wouldn't support it," said Steve Newell, a retired doctor from The Marine Institute on Sapelo Island.

In other business Wednesday, the commission:

* Deferred action on adopting a firearms ordinance in the absence of city attorney Lynn Frey.

* Denied a General Commercial rezoning request for 3321 Gordon St.

02/20 - Plan is all about money

Date: February 20, 2008
Section(s): Letters
The Brunswick News

As a 30-plus year visitor to Jekyll Island, I feel I must weigh in on the plan to develop the island. I believe it can be summed up with the statement, "It's all about the money."

If ones look at those in favor of the town center plan, you will see that they stand to make a considerable amount of money or political favor from the development.

Linger Longer gains access to very valuable beach property at little direct cost. But, in addition, Glynn County and Brunswick will reap significant tax dollars without having to give any services in return. Certain business owners will see increased sales volume.

The JIA, certain elected officials, as well as Gov. Perdue gain political favors and possibly contributions from those parties who profit.

Consider those who are against the plan. Certainly the Jekyll leaseholders would gain if the plan comes to reality, as their holdings would become more valuable; but they, as well as the Georgia Conservancy and others, have put their personal priorities behind the good of the Island and the visitors who come for the simple pleasures that Jekyll offers.

I urge the citizens of Georgia to speak out and put pressure on your politicians so that the island, which belongs to all citizens, is not stolen from you for the benefit of a few. Once developed, it will be forever lost.

Jon Stevenson
Jefferson, Ohio

What would motivate visitors to development?

My wife and I just returned from our first visit to Jekyll and St. Simons islands. We had a wonderful time, patronized several excellent restaurants and shops, and especially loved the open, beautiful paths and views at Jekyll Island.

Then I picked up a local paper and read about the proposed "Linger Longer" development. I am sorry, but I just don't get it. Why do people think Jekyll Island needs to be "developed"?

What would motivate us to return to the island if this development happens? We might as well just stay in Florida where there is already lots of "development."

Jekyll Island currently offers tranquil beauty and miles of shoreline areas that are accessible even to handicapped people. Yet some people want to toss this away, and for what? Sorry, I just don't get it.

Maybe the developers could be sent elsewhere (to build floating hotels at Niagra Falls or maybe cliff-side condos at the Grand Canyon).

Richard Loehr
Titusville, Fla.

Article on Jekyll Island needs a correction

The lead article in Saturday's Brunswick News is one of the best pieces of balanced reporting I have seen in a long time. You almost got it right. One small error: The president of the Jekyll Island Citizens Association is Frank Mirasola, not Tise Eyler as reported. However, I am in agreement with the remarks he made.

Frank Mirasola
Jekyll Island

Why a double standard on Jekyll, St. Simons?

It was intriguing to read the editorial in the Feb. 14 edition of The Brunswick News. The title entreats residents to be active in determining the future direction of development on St. Simons Island.

How interesting, then, that on Jekyll Island, where residents are actively doing the same regarding the future direction of development on that island, they are frequently attacked by the state, media, and developers as being selfish, self-serving carpetbaggers, or worse.

Yes, Jekyll Island is a unique situation. As a state park, it has to be managed with all of the 8 million residents of the state in mind.

Of course, the future residents of Georgia should also be taken into consideration, as we will be passing this island along to them, hopefully in a condition that is at least as wonderful as it was when given to us.

Unfortunately, the state government has allowed the well-being of a commercial enterprise take precedent over the well-being of the island.

The second line in the Feb. 14 editorial asks, "Concerned about more and more land disappearing under the bulk and weight of mortar and bricks?"

It's funny that Jekyll Island residents can answer "Yes!" to this question, yet the editorial board at The Brunswick News does not give them the same consideration that it is apparently willing to give the residents of the island to the north. Why the double standard?

Geoffrey Hatchard
Washington, D.C.

02/20 - Commission may OK Jekyll resolution

Date: February 20, 2008
Section(s): Local News
The Brunswick News

Brunswick Mayor Bryan Thompson feels it should come as no surprise to anyone that the city would favor improvements recommended for Jekyll Island.

"We have always been supportive of the redevelopment of Jekyll Island," Thompson said.

Today, though, the City Commission will make it official if a resolution proposed by Thompson is approved by the majority of the four other commissioners when they meet at 6:30 p.m. at Old City Hall on Newcastle St.

Thompson feels that strongly about the $341 million project proposed by the Jekyll Island Authority and its private partner, Linger Longer Communities.

"Many of us on the commission see this as an opportunity to go on record as saying that we are supportive of the plan that the Jekyll Island Authority has been working on for a number of years," Thompson said.

"We are very impressed with the way they have involved the public with meetings and in listening to their concerns."

If the resolution is approved, the city commission will join the ranks of Gov. Sonny Perdue and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle in vocalizing support for the redevelopment of Jekyll Island.

As proposed by Linger Longer Communities, the plan will include new hotels and condominiums. It will also include a new convention center and shopping district.

But not everyone is in favor of what has been proposed. The plans have faced opposition from residents of Jekyll Island and state officials, including Sen. Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick.

"Since Jekyll Island is a state park, we all have the option of weighing in on whether or not the redevelopment plan is a good idea or not a good idea," Thompson said.

"But the commission seems to feel like this is a good opportunity for Jekyll (Island) and the surrounding areas and the state as a whole."

The Glynn County Commission will be asked to adopt a similar resolution during its 6 p.m. meeting Thursday. That action would follow the announcement by Commission Chair Don Hogan in January during a meeting of the Jekyll Island Legislative Oversight Committee in Atlanta that the county commission supports the project.

02/18 - City, county weigh backing Jekyll

The Brunswick News
Date: February 18, 2008
Section(s): Local News

City commissioners and Glynn County commissioners will consider adopting resolutions in support of the proposed multi-million-dollar revitalization of Jekyll Island when they meet separately this week.

The city commission will meet for its regular session at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Old City Hall on Newcastle Street. County commissioners will meet in regular session at 6 p.m. Thursday at the old county courthouse.

Brunswick Mayor Bryan Thompson will ask the city commission to endorse the Jekyll Island project, according to the city's published agenda.

County Commissioner Uli Keller is sponsoring the resolution on the county agenda.

The county commission is already on record of supporting the project. Glynn County Chair Don Hogan told members of the Jekyll Island Legislative Oversight Committee during a meeting in Atlanta in January that the county commission endorses the project.

Revitalization plans call for new hotels, new commercial district and a new convention center, as well as condominiums for full-time and part-time residents.

Park advisory board to meet

The Selden Park Advisory Board will meet Tuesday.

The meeting will be at 7 p.m. in the Selden Park Conference Room.

02/16 - The spreading fight over paradise

Date February 16, 2008
Section(s) Local News

The Brunswick News

David Egan is a traveling man. He has spent time on a host of islands along the eastern seaboard, from Nova Scotia straight down to Key West.

But when Egan and his wife Mindy first stepped foot on Jekyll Island more than 15 years ago, they knew they had found something special.

The soft lullaby of the ocean waves, the warm glow of the summer sun, the complete absence of whizzing traffic and rushed lifestyles - it all brought the couple back to the island time and again.

"There is just something spiritual about Jekyll Island that no other place has," said Egan.

The Egans eventually uprooted their lives to the beachfront island from New York, plunking themselves down in the sand to start living on island time.

Then something unexpected happened: the Jekyll Island Authority announced the Egans' sacred Georgia paradise was about to undergo a dramatic change.

Egan isn't opposed to the revamping of his beloved island. In fact, he agrees that Jekyll is long overdue for a makeover.

What he disagrees with is the way the change is happening - too quickly, he said.

When the Jekyll Island Authority began asking residents what they thought about plans and revitalization, Egan wondered why these same questions weren't being asked to Jekyll visitors. After all, he surmises, those are people who will be equally affected by the revitalization efforts.

"I had been a long-time visitor here and I thought it was only fair that the people who are coming here should have a say in the plans," said Egan.

To understand how easily Jekyll guests would swallow new plans, Egan founded The Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island State Park. Through the group's Web site,, the grassroots association works to make the voices of non-residents heard with surveys and updates on the redevelopment project's progress.

It also has expanded the battlefield, to include the entire state and beyond.

When Egan launched the organization and the Web site, he expected a couple of hundred responses from people across the state wanting their two cents to be counted.

Turns out, Egan greatly underestimated the impact Georgia's only oceanfront state park has had on the nation. To date, Egan reports more than 10,000 responses on the site, coming from every state in the nation except North Dakota.

Locally, residents from some 300 Georgia cities and towns have replied to the site.

"I never anticipated this level of response. When I started getting e-mails from Hawaii and Alaska, I knew we were on to something," said Egan. "I guess everybody knows about the island except North Dakota. But my guess is, they'll find out soon."

From these thousands of responses, Egan has found that the overwhelming majority of individuals support some sort of revamping effort on Jekyll. It's just the specifics on which no one can seem to agree.

"It's been unfair that those who oppose the Linger Longer plan are seen as opposing all types of change. That's just not the case," Egan said. "We all agree that something needs to be done. Hopefully, we can find a middle ground."

Jim Langford said he hopes for the same thing. As project executive for Linger Longer Communities, the group responsible for the Jekyll Island redevelopment plans, Langford has felt the heat emitted from local groups not in agreement with the company's blueprints. And it's a heat he has seen light up the whole of the Southeast. From Jekyll to Atlanta to the Blue Ridge Mountains, individuals across the region are debating the pros and cons of renovating the state-owned island.

"Public debate is a healthy thing," Langford said. "People might think we're not listening, but we are. These plans are not locked in stone. We take in to account everything we hear and all the opinions of people who care about the island."

More than the project manager, Langford has personal ties to the island. With fervor, he recalls 1958, the year he was 15-years-old and first laid eyes on Jekyll's sprawling shoreline.

"I think we are all working toward the same goal, to make Jekyll Island the best place it can be," said Langford. "We can all agree that we want Jekyll to retain its uniqueness."

Equally as quick to recount a boyhood spent frolicking on Jekyll's sandy beach is state Sen. Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick. These fond recollections have fueled Chapman to stoke the fires of controversy in Atlanta during the Georgia General Assembly, where he has proposed legislation that would alter, if not altogether stop, the current Jekyll Island rejuvenation plan.

"I remember we had relatives from up North, and they'd come down and we'd spend the day showing them our Jekyll. Those were some of the funest times I ever had," said Chapman. "People across the state are working to be heard. I mean, I can hardly go anywhere without someone stopping me and wanting to talk about Jekyll Island.

"A lot of people have happy memories of Jekyll. That's what's motivating them to be speak out."

Whether to Chapman or Langford, Tise Eyler is determined to have his thoughts on the island redevelopment plans heard. Though he has never been one to participate in fights, Eyler, president of the Jekyll Island Citizens Association, is not content to watch his island slip away from him.

After spending much of his life traveling around the world, Eyler, a retired U.S. Navy captain, finally gained a sense of home on Jekyll 22 years ago. Now that he's found this gem on the Georgia coast, he's not willing to let it go.

"I've never been involved in anything like this before. And I'm not opposed to rejuvenation. I just don't want Jekyll to become another Hilton Head or Myrtle Beach," said Eyler. "There are few places left in the world where you can find the natural beauty that is here on Jekyll. I think the preservation of beauty is something worth standing up for."

Legislative front

In his second attempt to halt the Linger Longer Communities rejuvenation plan on Jekyll Island, state Sen. Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick, recently proposed three bills in the Georgia General Assembly. The legislation would:

* Prevent additional full-time residences from being built on the state-owned island.

* Create restrictions that would prevent construction of the proposed Beach Village near the waterfront.

* More strictly define some legal terminology used in defining the redevelopment project, including "lowest hotel rates reasonable and possible."

What Linger Longer plans

"The overall goal of our Jekyll Island plan is to make the island a place families and conventions will again want to visit, but also preserve the natural state of the island," said Jim Langford, project executive for Linger Longer Communities, the group responsible for the Jekyll Island redevelopment plans.

The $344 million Linger Longer plan seeks to:

* Help the state-owned island generate revenue to maintain a state of self-sufficiency, as required by Georgia regulations.

* Create Beach Village, a hub of central activity within walking distances of hotels

* Create three new hotels, ranging in price from economy to mid-scale

* Create a new convention center

* Create more green space while adding additional parking

* Preserve sand dunes and maritime forest

Who's involved in the Jekyll Island battle

Friends of Linger Longer Communities redevelopment plan:

* Jekyll Island Authority

* Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce

* Jekyll Island Oversight Committee of the Georgia General Assembly

* Glynn County Commission

Foes of the Linger Longer plan:

* State Sen. Jeff Chapman

* The Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island

* Jekyll Island Citizens Association

02/14 - Jekyll should not be another Myrtle Beach

The Brunswick News
Date: February 14, 2008
Section(s): Letters

Your headline of Feb. 7, "Legislation could hurt Jekyll," should have read "Legislation would save Jekyll." No one is saying that the island is not in need of some updating.

What the people of Georgia have been saying is don't turn the island into Florida or another Myrtle Beach.

The Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island's polls clearly state this fact.

What ever happened to the poll on this issue that the JIA handed out at the tollbooth at the entrance of the Island several years ago? I was a vacationer then and filled one out. I never heard the results.

It is very clear that Jekyll Island is a state park that the JIA and the governor want to run regardless of what the people of Georgia want. To heck with the average Georgian.

Laura Renke

02/13 - We all should support Chapman's legislation

The Brunswick News
Date: February 13, 2008
Section(s): Letters

Didn't you mean to write "Legislation could help save Jekyll"? Thank goodness for Senator Chapman. We should all be supporting him, your paper included.

This money, power, and land grab paraded as positive for Jekyll Island is a ludicrous joke. I do not know of anyone who visits Jekyll Island regularly that believes this planned development will be a positive in any way.

Jekyll is all about being outdoors, with easy and direct access to public beaches, and unobstructed views of the coastline.

Fancy shopping, additional hotels, high-rise condos, traffic, etc. do not belong there. We have St. Simons for that.

Jekyll is one of the last undeveloped strips of coast left. It needs to stay that way. Do we really want Jekyll to turn into Hilton Head or Myrtle Beach? Anyone else who feels this way should visit and help stop this madness.

Kevin Strasser

02/12 - Authority eager to move ahead

Date February 12, 2008
Section(s) Local News
The Brunswick News

Two years after the idea of a modern Jekyll Island came to light, plans to redevelop the island are, for the most part, still just on paper.

That's not to say developers are dawdling. Currently, the Jekyll Island Authority is waiting for final plans from Linger Longer Communities, its private sector partner, to begin the framework for the $341 million redevelopment blueprint.

Those against the plan are continuing to speak out against it. Opponents include state Sen. Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick, who last week introduced three bills in the Georgia General Assembly that would all but kill the project in its current form if passed. It is bound to ignite debate in Atlanta.

Meanwhile, the planning continues, said Eric Garvey, senior director of marketing for the Jekyll Island Authority.

Plans call for new hotels, a new commercial district and new convention center.

"The next step is to hear back from the Linger Longer attorney and the (state) Attorney General about changes to our plans," Garvey said. "We are expecting that anytime. We have received support from the Georgia General Assembly and the Jekyll Oversight Committee. We are getting ready to take our next steps."

Those steps include analyzing and confirming designs for Beach Village, the planned hub of activity under new island designs. The assessment is expected to be completed between mid-March and April.

This month, Jekyll Island Oaks, one of the new hotels charted to set up shop on the island, is expected to release plans for is development. Garvey noted that the hotel is on schedule to break ground by the end of the year.

He said by and large, people are very supportive.

"Now that people are hearing more about our plans, the negative feedback has lessened," he said. "People were worried about the unknown. But now the ideas are being talked about openly and people are more comfortable with our ideas."

Rumors of revamping the state-owned island began circulating in 2006, when the Jekyll Island Authority announced plans to begin a redevelopment project.

Garvey is expecting the plan to wrap up in 2011.

For his part, Jim Langford, project executive for Linger Longer Communities, is busy collecting and evaluating community input on the project.

"We're still talking to folks around the state to figure out what they like about our plans now and what they want to change," Langford said. "After we figure all that out, we'll change our plan to fit what we hear from the community. That time should probably come about March."

Of the responses he's compiled thus far, Langford has found overwhelming acceptance with current redevelopment ideas. Specifically, he has received positive feedback regarding price ranges for new hotels - an about-face from prior reviews.

One of the measures Chapman is sponsoring in the legislature seeks to control the pricing of new rooms in the state park. His argument that the island would become too expensive for "average Georgians" is also one of the points of opposition made by the citizens group, Save Jekyll Island.

"There are always people who don't want any kind of change and will find fault with everything," Langford said. "But most people are now saying they like that we will offer varying levels of prices for accommodations."

Community commentary regarding the variety of activities planned for the island has been overall positive, Langford said. Under the revitalization plans currently being discussed, visitors will be able to vacation without ever stepping foot in their car, thanks to the addition of new bike and pedestrian paths and a number of attractions within walking distance of hotels.

By law, 65 percent of the island must remain untouched. Of the 35 percent that is currently developed, only about 63 acres, or 1 percent, will be altered under the Linger Longer plans, Langford said.

"That is one thing I have heard a lot of people say they are happy with, is our effort to be eco-friendly," said Langford. "We have to find that right balance between building and conservation."

The Jekyll Island Citizens Association is conducting a market study with organizations and event sponsors who have previously used the Jekyll Island Convention Center. Participants are asked to share their opinions regarding the potential move of the center from its current location, to a larger facility closer to the proposed beachfront convention hotel.


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.

02/07 - Slugline Legislation could hurt Jekyll

Date: February 07, 2008
Section(s): Local News
The Brunswick News

Legislation proposed by state Sen. Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick, would effectively derail the $344 million revitalization planned for Georgia's only oceanfront state park, the chair of the Jekyll Island Authority warned Wednesday.

"The legislation suggested by Sen. Chapman would effectively stop the revitalization of Jekyll Island, which is contrary to the direction given to the Jekyll Island Authority by the governor and General Assembly over the past five years and specifically conflicts with (House Bill) 214 signed into law last year," Ben Porter said in a prepared statement to the media.

That House bill extended the life of the Jekyll Island Authority, which operates the state-owned island, and created a Jekyll Island Oversight Committee of state legislators to monitor it.

Porter has some heavyweights on his side to block the legislation Chapman wants. Both Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who presides over the Senate, and the oversight committee, which includes Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson, R-Savannah, are in favor of the renewal plan.

Among the plan's projects are new oceanfront hotels, a new commercial center and a new convention center.

Chapman did not return telephone calls made Wednesday to his cell phone and to his Senate office in Atlanta.

The legislation drafted by Chapman, an opponent of the proposed revitalization, would:

* Prevent additional full-time residences from being built on the state-owned island.

* Create restrictions that would prevent construction of the proposed Beach Village near the waterfront.

* More strictly define some legal terminology used in defining the redevelopment project, including "average income." It would be defined as the state-wide average wages for workers of all industries.

The measure attempts to define "an average Georgian," who Chapman and other foes of the project claim would be priced out of access to the state park.

Linger Longer Communities, spearheading the project in partnership with the Jekyll Island Authority, rejects that contention.

Chapman's proposals would seek to handcuff hotel operators in setting room rates through how it defines certain terms.

For example, "lowest rates reasonable and possible" would mean the average annual daily rate charged by Jekyll Island hotels could not exceed the annual average daily rate charged for rooms of the same occupancy at other specified state parks, including Unicoi in Helen. Rates for overnight double occupancy at the Lodge in Unicoi, which is operated by the state, range from $85 to $100.

Chapman did not include in the measure parks like Stone Mountain, near Atlanta, where overnight rates range from $149 to $449.

The legislation is a second attempt by Chapman to slow or stall changes on Jekyll Island.

He tried unsuccessfully during the 2007 Legislature to block additional full-time residences on the island.

02/06 - Commission is at fault for jail, Jekyll positions

The Brunswick News

I found your editorials of Feb. 1 and Feb. 2 most reasonable and enlightening.

Both were about the arrogance and selfishness of builders (the commissioners' grasping of downtown real estate for jail expansion, and murdering of trees on St. Simons Island).

What a contrast there was between these editorials with your editorial of Jan. 18, lauding Commissioner Hogan for his encouragement of Linger Longer Communities' (LLC) construction of luxury condominiums blocking the central beachfront of Jekyll Island State Park.

Don Hogan is the same commissioner who is now pushing a downtown-jail resolution defying the commission's own paid consultant and many of Brunswick's citizens.

The most glaring fault with your Jan. 18 editorial was its contention that opponents of the LLC condominium village don't want anyone to visit the park, and "would just as soon leave the island as it is."

This is fallacious, unfair, and insulting. LLC's major opponent organization now has adherents numbering in the thousands from all across Georgia, and has always and openly been in favor of the rebuilding of the hotels in the park that were allowed to deteriorate.

There is no need to turn over the park's main beach to a private developer's self-enrichment efforts.

The park's budget has allowed capital projects even during the last few years of lost (demolished and not yet rebuilt) hotels.

When the new hotels (including condominiums of their own) begin operating on the footprint of those demolished, the Park Authority should have the funds that it needs.

Steven Y. Newell
Jekyll Island

01/30 - Reconsider one design in new Jekyll plan

The Brunswick News

I am pleased with the authority's choice of Linger Longer Communities as the JIA's private partner for Jekyll Island revitalization. LLC smoothly integrates a 45-plus acre convention, vacation, educational, and service complex with "Historic Jekyll Island." The design also confines most increase in visitor motor traffic within the new complex. The plan seems ecologically sound and aesthetically pleasing. Apparently LLC considered the 2005 Cooper Gary Guidelines in their planning, again, seamlessly tying in with "Historic Jekyll Island."

With this in mind, I was surprised to see pictures of Trammell Crow's "Florida Beachfront Design" hotel with an 82-foot elevation as a replacement for the Buccaneer Hotel. These pictures are on an onsite Trammell Crow billboard and on the Web site. In my opinion, this structure does not fit Jekyll Island, and is not consistent design-wise with the LLC complex.

I hope the JIA board will encourage Trammell Crow to change their plans to meet the extant and future aesthetic vision of Jekyll Island consistent with the LLC design spirit.

James M. Coulter

Jekyll Island