April 17, 2013
Letters to the editor/Voices of the community
JIA not heeding group’s advice
Authority not heeding advice of task force
Thank you for your continuing coverage of Jekyll Island State Park. As a citizen member of the Recreation and Tourism citizen task force, I appreciate your coverage of this important issue. Why am I not surprised that the JIA isn't accepting the recommendations of their own 65/35 task force? This task force thoroughly studied the issue before making its recommendation.
The JIA appears committed to developing more land on Jekyll Island State Park regardless of law and citizen will. Obviously, the JIA's refusing to accept its own task force's recommendations. This can only be because they disagree with the recommendations. To sidestep the task force, therefore, they sent the decision to the governor's office. Numerous reports have noted that the public vacations on Jekyll Island State Park for its natural environment, not because of elite hotels and boutique shops. It is time to stop the development insanity on Jekyll Island State Park. If the JIA doesn't respect the will of Georgia's citizens it's time for them to resign and let more citizen-friendly voices reign.
Reclassification is scary
It's just a little scary to think that classifying marsh as developable land is even on the table. To include marshland as part of the land area of Jekyll Island is a severely flawed concept. It's almost as spooky a concept as the previously floated idea that man-made lakes on the golf course should count as "undeveloped."
At the request of the Jekyll Island Authority, a dedicated study group of intelligent, well informed citizens spend months of serious discussion to accurately determine what constitutes the Jekyll land mass, only to have the Authority challenge their conclusion.
Marshland is marshland. Developable land is developable land. And never the twain shall meet (unless some lawyers get in the act).
April 19, 2013
Letters to the editor/Voices of the community
Piece of Jekyll puzzle missing
Missing information troubling
State law limits the development of Jekyll Island to not more than 35 percent of the island's land area, the key word here being "land." Tidal marsh, as anyone with a grain of common sense knows, is not land, yet this fact is apparently lost on the JIA, which is now asking the Attorney General's office if the marsh on Jekyll's west side can be counted as part of the island's land area when calculating the number of acres legally eligible for development.
Not only does common sense tells us that marsh, as a water-based environment , is not land but so does Georgia's Coastal Marshlands Protection Act, which clearly distinguishes tidal marsh from land on the basis of vegetation and soil types found in a marsh environment. The marsh-upland boundary established by the CMPA for Jekyll Island is what should be used to set the island's west-side perimeter. That's what the JIA-sponsored committee of experts concluded, but that's the opinion that has now been tabled by the JIA, according to Friday's Brunswick News article.
If the so-called 65/35 law, the Coastal Marshlands Protection Act, the JIA's committee of experts, and simple logic too all support the conclusion that tidal marsh is not part of Jekyll Island's land area, then why is the JIA suddenly turning to the state's Attorney General for an opinion? There seems to be a piece missing from this puzzle; what it is I do not know.
Definition of 'marsh' shouldn't be left to lawyers
Well over a year ago, the Jekyll Island Authority took a very positive step. The JIA called on the University of Georgia's Fanning Institute to assemble task forces from a diverse group of Georgia citizens. These task forces were to help with the process of writing a new Master Plan for Jekyll Island State Park. The task forces met multiple times to discuss ideas and distill them into recommendations for the steering committee.
The 65/35 group undoubtedly met the most often and did the most research, but now we learn that its key recommendation, which is that coastal marsh should not be treated as part of Jekyll Island's land mass when figuring out how many acres can be developed, has to be approved by state attorneys.
Can someone tell me why, after 15 months of hard work, public input and expert opinion, the final decision concerning the definition of "marsh" is in the hands of lawyers? The 65/35 task force, the Coastal Marsh Protection Act, and common sense have already answered the question the JIA has put to state attorneys.
What else needs to be said?
Expert on nature is troubled
I am troubled that the Jekyll Island Authority is proposing to include any portion of the tidal marsh as part of the calculated area of upland on Jekyll Island. Having more than 30 years of experience in environmental analysis, planning and advocacy in coastal Georgia, I speak with some authority on the topic.
Georgia's Coastal Marshlands Protection Act (CMPA) is quite specific in distinguishing between uplands and marshes. By virtue of that law, marshes are, in effect, conservation areas ineligible for development except for strictly limited purposes of water access, regulated by law.
To propose including tidal marshes of any kind as part of the tabulation of Jekyll Island's land area is misleading and scientifically unfounded. By unjustifiably attempting to add marshes to the island's land area, the JIA is taking an unwise step that misrepresents the physical and biological characteristics that make these tidal wetlands unique.
The effect of this wrong-headed proposal is to mask the truth, which reveals that well over 35 percent, the legally-established development limit of Jekyll Island, is already developed.
Calling any adjacent tidal marsh around Jekyll Island "upland" does not make it so, nor does it change the harsh truth that the development limits set by law have been exceeded and must not be allowed to expand.
St. Simons Island
Definitions of marsh, land leave nothing to ponder
It is a truism that tidal marsh and land are not the same thing. Wading in the marsh, you get your feet wet, standing on land, you don’t. It’s as simple as that. Crystal clear too is the legal distinction between marsh and land spelled out in black and white by one of Georgia’s most important pieces of conservation legislation, the Coastal Marshlands Protection Act.
The obvious is usually not subject to debate, but the Jekyll Island Authority, which has not distinguished itself as of late for its respect for marsh law, is now seeking a legal opinion from the Attorney General’s office as to whether it’s okay or not to count marsh as part of Jekyll Island’s land area for development purposes.
Presumably, the Attorney General will tell the JIA to “go fish” on this one.
But, if it turns out that the AG says it’s okay to treat marsh as if it were land, and if that ruling goes unchallenged, then the Marsh Protection Act would lose much of its meaning and the consequences would reach far beyond Jekyll Island.
C. G. Gruss
JIA should use smart development tactics
The Jekyll Island Authority (JIA) is now seeking to development tidal marshlands. The Coastal Marshlands Protection Act defines "Coastal Marshlands" or "marsh lands" as any marshland intertidal area, mud flat, tidal water bottom, or salt marsh in the State of Georgia within the estuarine area of the state and are to be protected by statute.
By statute the JIA is only allowed to develop only 35 percent of Jekyll Island uplands. The JIA has already exceeded authorized development and should not be allowed to develop the "public's" marshland properties. The JIA is already building bike walkways across the marsh without authority according to the 35 percent clause for development. Just because the Coastal Marshlands Protection Committee authorized these bike trails over the marsh is no excuse for violating the legislated 35 percent law.
In fact, every bike walkway represents development of hundreds of acres of valuable scenic vista areas. Once the natural vista is destroyed by man made objects the value of that scenic area goes down and each bike walkway represents possible harm to the salt marsh.
The state should tell the JIA no marsh development and start using smart development tactics and use what the law already authorized them to use.
April 24, 2013
Letters to the editor/Voices of the community
Misunderstanding of Master Plan still prevails
Recent letters to this paper indicate a profound misunderstanding of the Jekyll Island Master Plan process and specifically the work of the 65/35 Task Force.
This phase of the plan is intended to provide open and broad-based input from interested members of the public. The Jekyll Island Authority greatly appreciates the time and talent which was volunteered for this process. Recommendations from each task force are being used in the planning process and have not been submitted to the Jekyll Island Authority for approval.
The 65/35 Task Force's recommendation defines Jekyll Island in a different way than current state law. Because one cannot just arbitrarily change the standards of measurement contained in current law, the language was referred to the Office of the Attorney General for legal review before it is considered in the next steps of planning.
This has nothing to do with developing more land or reclassifying marshland. It is simply a process through which the Jekyll Island Authority is maintaining strict compliance with the 1971 law requiring 65 percent of the island to remain undeveloped.
In updating the Master Plan, the Jekyll Island Authority is being proactive in ensuring responsible stewardship and future protection of the natural and cultural resources of this special place.
Jekyll doing just fine, despite naysayers
Here we go again -- the goofy people ranting and raving about Jekyll Island having the beaches loaded with expensive hotels and high-dollar shops that the "average Georgian" can't afford!
Well here are the facts about your "development insanity:" The Island has lost three hotels along with hundreds of rooms. The fancy shops are sitting in trailer houses in a parking lot. The planned hotels next to the beautiful new convention center are yet to be built mainly due to financial reasons. Now the goofballs out there want to put more restriction on the island.
We have made steady progress with the new convention center, the new "public" Great Dunes park, the new bike trails for the "public" use that wind through the marshes and live oaks on the Island. All of this done in an environmentally sensitive way.
In these trying economic times the present administration has gone above and beyond the call. Yes, there are some things that need to be done, but as a homeowner for 14 years on this island, I'm prouder of what has been going on in the past few years and what will happen as we go forward than I ever have been.
I say to all the naysayers: Leave us alone. We're doing just fine.
May 1, 2013
Letters to the editor/Voices of the community
Points need to be clarified about Jekyll tidal marsh
As a member of the Jekyll Master Plan 65/35 committee, I want to clarify a few points regarding the committee's recommendation that tidal marsh should be excluded from the land area count when applying the 65/35 law.
Contrary to what has been alleged by some, the committee didn't act "arbitrarily" or in defiance of state law.
In fact, the committee relied upon the Marsh Protection Act's definition of the marsh-upland interface to determine Jekyll's west side boundary. This was a reasoned, law-based recommendation proposed by the lead JIA representative on the committee.
The JIA has said its request for a ruling from the Attorney General's office regarding the legality of the committee's recommendation is just "standard procedure." But, the JIA didn't just ask for a ruling; it told the AG that the committee's marsh recommendation was contrary to state law.
Did the JIA also tell the AG that it had previously endorsed the recommendation it is now condemning?
Instead of evaluating the committee's report with the Master Plan Steering Committee, the JIA unilaterally rejected the committee's marsh recommendation, and thus short-circuited the Master Plan public engagement process.
Again, unilaterally, the JIA concluded, and informed the AG, that Jekyll Island, when tidal marsh is included, is some 1,700 acres larger than the 65/35 committee has reported, an astounding figure that has far reaching implications.
The JIA deserves a pat on the back for updating the Master Plan; less so for how it's now treating the 65/35 issue.
Jekyll resident should tone down rhetoric
The recent "letter to the editor" by Jim Sherry really struck me the wrong way. He stated, "Leave us alone. We're doing just fine" and called the people of Georgia "naysayers."
In case this individual has forgotten, the people of the state of Georgia own Jekyll Island -- he does not.
He also stated, "I have lived on Jekyll Island for 14 years."
I would also like to remind him that for over 12 of those years, he paid very little in "rent" to those same people. The people of Georgia have every right and even a responsibility to state their opinion relating to what is done with their property.
If he doesn't want to listen to the "naysayers," he should move to where he actually owns the property his house sits upon. Then, and only then, will it no longer matter what the "naysayers" have to say.
Charles Van Buren
May 8, 2013
Sadly, not surprised by JIA's course of action
I wish I could say that I was surprised by the many positions taken by JIA spokesman Garvey in the recent article concerning the 65/35 committee, but I'm not.
Simply, the dispute boils down to the fact that the JIA would now rather include the marsh in the 65/35 calculation so more land is available for development and the committee, logically, concluded that it shouldn't be. His other points, in particular his worn misstatements about the Egans, are ones he normally trots out when the JIA wants to shut down criticism.
Now the JIA is trying a new tack, saying they never suggested that the marsh be developed.
Of course not, because that would be stupid. We all know that. So then why contend that marsh count in the 65/35 calculation?
Again, it's a simple dispute and it's obvious that the citizen committee is correct.
The JIA does good work. It's unfortunate that they put themselves in these easily avoidable situations when they overreach.
Jekyll Island deserves a new master plan
I have been a member of The Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island since 2006 and currently serve as chairperson of the group.
Our organization has repeatedly been accused of being having an "anti-development agenda" regarding Jekyll Island. This is not true. Over 90 percent of IPJI members we surveyed in 2007 were in favor of the new convention center, replacement of hotels and new shopping and dining. This has not changed.
I invite people to read our mission statement on our website for themselves. What we are against is the type of supersized, expensive development that the Linger Longer proposal represented. We will continue to be unapologetic watchdogs.
The Coastal Marshlands Protection Act clearly distinguishes between land and marsh, so for the JIA to try to define marsh as land in order to increase total acreage should send up red flags to all who care about retaining Jekyll's unique character.
It is disingenuous of the JIA to say after the fact the 65/35 Task Force group should not have considered the island's acreage. They had feedback from the task force groups each time they met last year, so they knew what was being discussed.
Moreover, how can one logically determine what percentage of acreage is actually developed or undeveloped without considering actual land?
I am quite familiar with the 1996 Master Plan, and it has plenty of flaws. Jekyll Island deserves a new Master Plan that is honestly written and based on the improvements in scientific measurement and what is proven best practices for managing public land in 2013.
May 10, 2013
Jekyll Island bunch flawed in their 'authority'
Proposed attempt of the Jekyll Island State Park Authority to reclassify 1725 acres of wet land as "land" would open up 604 acres of Jekyll high land (35 percent time 1725) for development. It is merely another attempt to open up real estate opportunities for "friends" of state gover
It also reinforces the published ranking of Georgia as having the least ethical government in the
There is overwhelming precedence that "marshland" has clear-cut definitions of soil type and vegetative cover that exist above the mean high tide, which (by definition) means that tides inundate areas above the mean high tide line 50 percent of the tim.
Attempts by the Jekyll Island State Park Authority to redefine "marsh" and "land" create serious jurisdictional problems for DNR in their administration of the Marshlands Protection Act -- as applied to former rice fields (which I own at New Hope Plantation) and which, like Jekyll Island, are Crown Grants.
The Jekyll Island State Park Authority can add their flawed attempt to redefine "land" to their previous flawed decision to pick bankrupt Reynolds Linger Longer as "best qualified" to overdevelop Jekyll Island.
Might I also mention the approval by the Authority to design Convention Center rooms with perfectly horizontal floors that make it nearly impossible for people seated in the middle to see the front stage. Joseph Iannicelli