Jekyll tries to define what is land
The Brunswick News
April 10, 2012

The definitions of what is "developed land" and "undeveloped land" will be at the heart of discussions under way on the future of Jekyll Island.

By state law, at least 65 percent of the island state park must remain undeveloped, while no more than 35 percent can be developed.

Members of the Jekyll Island Master Plan 65/35 Task Force met for the first time Monday to discuss what that ratio means to the future of the island because state law does not define "developed land" for an island with a significant amount of marsh.

The task force is one of seven that will work to provide recommendations to update the island's master plan which was created in 1996 and last updated in 2006. The Jekyll Island Authority, which operates the island, will have the final say on any changes to the master plan, which guides the management of the island.

The 65/35 Task Force met Monday, ahead of other groups, to map out its planning process because the law it is dealing with could affect how other groups proceed, said Langford Holbrook, assistant director of the Fanning Institute. The institute is a community development center at the University of Georgia selected by the Jekyll Island Authority to lead planning for the master plan update.

As the group moves forward, questions about the definitions of developed land and what is included in Jekyll Island's landmass will be of concern, said task force member David Egan, co-founder of the Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island.

While Georgia law does not define developed land on Jekyll Island, the island's 1996 master plan included definitions for development. Egan said the planning group hopes to provide an update to those definitions, based on industry standards.

The group also hopes to address the issue of Jekyll Island's landmass and determine if marshland is considered to be part of the island's acreage.

"If you say that 35 percent of the land area on Jekyll Island can be developed, you have to know what that area is, in terms of acreage," Egan said.

Development on the island has not yet reached the 35 percent limit.

Current projects, including the new convention center, hotels and retail village, do not place the island in danger of exceeding development limits, Holbook said, because the buildings are planned for spaces where developments stood in the past.

"Everywhere you see something being built there was something there before," Holbrook said. "They're just replacing things that are already within the 35 percent."

There is no plan during the master plan update to attempt to change the state law requiring minimal development on the island, Egan said.

"This group and the (Jekyll Island Authority) do not intend to change the 65/35 mix," Egan said. "It's not like anyone's going to say we should go to a 50/50 (mix)."

Ben Carswell, conservation director for the Jekyll Island Authority and a member of the task force, echoed that statement.

"There's absolutely no push or effort to change (the law)," Carswell said. "That's the law and there's no push to change that."

Other task forces for the master plan include land use, transportation and infrastructure, environmental planning, historic and cultural resources, sustainability, and recreational planning. Those groups will meet for the first time April 27.