Cancel pact with Jekyll developer, says Senator Jeff Chapman

By Jeff Chapman

Atlanta Journal-Constitution

5:52 p.m. Tuesday, November 24, 2009
AS Seen at http://www.ajc.com/opinion/cancel-pact-with-jekyll-212864.html
 
On Nov. 10, I sent a letter to the Jekyll Island Authority (JIA) board urging its members to take advantage of contractual opportunities that would allow for the termination of the Revitalization Partnering Agreement (RPA) between the JIA and Linger Longer Communities on the grounds that it includes a number of provisions that are inconsistent with sound financial stewardship for Jekyll Island State Park, the crown jewel of Georgia’s coast.

As the elected state senator representing Jekyll, I advised the JIA that the RPA’s “Amended Business Points,” which are currently under consideration and require resolution by Dec. 1 in order for the agreement to remain in effect, provide the best opportunity to void the financial arrangement with Linger Longer.

Among the questionable terms of the RPA, three stand out:

A series of upfront payments and financial incentives for Linger Longer totaling millions of dollars — financial incentives to build on prime oceanfront land make little, if any, fiscal sense.

A 99 to 1 split in revenue sharing from the Jekyll time-share project — the oceanfront public land on which the time-shares will be built accounts for more than half of their market value, yet the JIA is settling for a penny on the dollar.

Some $50 million in state bonds to pay for the infrastructure for Linger Longer’s town center project — the bulk of those costs should have been covered by Linger Longer in return for the privilege of developing prime beachfront public land for which it does not have to pay anything.
The financial terms of the RPA are even more questionable when considering that they are the same, or in some cases worse, than the ones in the Linger Longer proposal that was rejected by the JIA in August 2007 during the private partner bid contest.

Referring to the original Linger Longer financial proposal, the JIA’s negotiators said that, “We could not recommend the financial return to Jekyll Island Authority’s Board as sound financial stewardship for the future of Jekyll Island.”

Linger Longer responded by sweetening its offer and was later selected as the JIA’s private partner. Astonishingly, however, the rejected financial terms are in the RPA.

The JIA has attempted to defend the RPA by claiming that Linger Longer’s town center on Jekyll will yield a net return of $20 million over its first 15 years, but that figure does not take into account the repayment of the $50 million bond debt that has been taken on to fund the town center’s infrastructure.

When all costs are considered, and the bottom line becomes clear, the financial terms of the project simply don’t make sense.

The task of renovating Jekyll Island State Park could be accomplished best if the JIA were to opt out of the lopsided RPA and move forward with the state park’s improvement by bidding out each development project separately.

Competitive bidding is a core principle of the free market system and, if followed, would allow the JIA to obtain the best product at the lowest price and for the highest net gain.

Doling out exclusive rights to Linger Longer for the next 25 years, as the JIA has done, disrespects free enterprise values, disadvantages other developers, and invites further abuse of public trust.

If revenue generated by the Jekyll town center project were to be shared fairly, the JIA would be in a position to accomplish the park’s renovation without incurring public debt and would have the resources to make park improvements over the long haul, provide hundreds of permanent jobs, and enhance the quality of the visitor experience.

Since the JIA has yet to respond to my Nov. 10 letter (click here to read full text of the letter), I am asking people across the state to advise their legislators and Gov. Sonny Perdue to urge the JIA to terminate the RPA.

I’m hoping that they will join me in calling for fiscal responsibility on the part of the JIA and for a Jekyll redevelopment plan that is consistent with sound financial stewardship for Jekyll Island State Park and is good for the people of Georgia.

State Sen. Jeff Chapman, a Republican, represents Glynn County and lives in Brunswick.



The following lettersto the editor appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on December 6, 2009 in response to Senator Chapman's Op-Ed piece:

Deccember 8, 2009
Jekyll development OK; funding private firm not

Thank you for publishing state Sen. Jeff Chapman’s “Cancel pact with Jekyll developer” (Opinion, Nov. 25). Chapman requested that the agreement with Linger Longer be rescinded. Please note that he does not object to development on Jekyll Island in a fiscally and environmentally responsible way. What he objects to is the giveaway of revenue from a Georgia State park to a private company. Georgia citizens need to sit up and take notice, before we all get sold down the river. Georgia’s next governor can appoint a new JIA board and set a new and better course for Jekyll Island’s future. We will be giving a lot of thought as to who that governor should be.
Bobbi Sedam, Atlanta

December 18, 2009
Jekyll’s a gem becauseit’s quiet, affordable

I was thrilled to read “Cancel pact with Jekyll developer” (Opinion, Nov. 25). I’ve always strongly felt there should be an official investigation into this contractual agreement, because its terms are so lavish in benefitting Linger Longer, in addition to the development project itself being so inappropriate for Jekyll Island.

The arrangement with Linger Longer was an outrage prior to the recession, and, in our current economic straits, it’s an even more outrageously inappropriate and misdirected hemorrhaging of money.

Yes, it’s appropriate for Jekyll’s existing hotels to be updated, but the state should never have allowed the current arrangement with Linger Longer, and state Sen. Jeff Chapman’s letter describes a common-sense plan to hit the reset button. Jekyll Island is such a gem because it’s a quiet destination where people with average means can still afford to connect with nature. The more development on Jekyll, the more nature itself has a tenuous hold.
Dan Corrie, Tifton