Record of the Jekyll Island State Park Authority (JISPA) Board Meeting of 10 November 2008, and the public hearing for the Master Plan Amendments, as recorded by Steven Y. Newell, Secretary, Jekyll Island Citizens Association
(Note: IPJI has placed some text in “bold” type for emphasis)
Chairman Bob Krueger brought the meeting to order at 9:45 AM. Board members present were Mike Hodges, Becky Kelley, and Sybil Lynn, and Steve Croy, Sam Kellett, Tom Lewis, and Counsel George Zier were on a conference telephone line. Park Authority Executive Director Jones Hooks and legal counsel Brooks Stillwell were also present. The audience numbered about 35 persons.
Chairman Krueger welcomed new Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Commissioner Chris Clark, who was visiting and who had taken a seat with the Authority Board members. (NB: Clark was most recently the Executive Director of the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority [GEFA]. Clark is also Governor Perdue’s proxy on the Southern Growth Policy Board, and vice president of the board of directors of the Georgia Economic Developers Association.) Krueger noted that he has watched Clark’s career with great pride, and asked Clark to say a few words. Clark thanked the Authority Board for hosting his visit. He noted that the vote by the DNR Board to approve his appointment would come in December, and that once he was officially approved, he looked forward to being involved in the Authority’s work and providing whatever support that he can offer on Jekyll Island.
CONSERVATION & PRESERVATION
Chairman Ben Porter was not available, so Director Hooks announced that a new document is now in print, “Landscaping in Coastal Habitats with a Firewise Approach”. Hooks gave major credit for producing the document to Conservation Manager Christa Frangiamore. Frangiamore thanked her interns, Meghan Injaycock from St. Simons, and Brett Walker of Rayle, Georgia. The two interns are now with the University of Georgia School of Landscape and Environmental Design. Frangiamore thanked the interns for a wonderful job; the document has been well received by the Georgia Forestry Commission, which funded the project. Frangiamore announced that the Commission and the Jekyll Island Garden Club will be holding a workshop on December 2nd and 3rd. The workshop will be open to all interested persons and groups in the Park.
Krueger shut off questions regarding the Park’s Conservation Plan by asserting that it is not available yet. He stated that it is still working forward, but is taking a back seat at this point.
Museum Director John Hunter reminded the audience of the commemoration of the landing of the Wanderer on Jekyll Island, which will take place 25 November at the St. Andrews picnic area. This will give a face to an important event in the history of Jekyll Island, one that was part of the African-American heritage of the Island. The commemoration is now getting some national attention in the press; a descendant family on Long Island was interviewed, other descendants will take part in the commemoration, and the Darien Shouters will perform.
Becky Kelley reminded Director Hooks about the need to discuss the Land & Water Conservation Fund with respect to the footprint of the Linger Longer Beach Village. She asked that this discussion take place before the next JISPA Board meeting.
Chairman Hodges reported that the October financial statements are not yet ready for release. He reviewed hotel results for October, given at the previous month’s Board meeting (JICANet Update Vol. IX, No. 54, 27 October 2008). Three items of interest were: average party size at the hotels was 2.84 persons; average length of stay was 2.75 days; 40% of room nights were attributable to group visitors.
Hodges brought a legal agreement to the Board for approval. The agreement is between Georgia DNR and the Park Authority, regarding the distribution of receipts from the new sea-turtle auto license tag. Marketing Director Eric Garvey provided a description of the procedure for obtaining the new tag, and distributed samples of the tag to the Board members. There are currently 1,476 reservations for the tag. Email instructions will be sent to this group of folks, informing them of steps that they need to take to acquire their plates. The applications for tags, along with the $25 fee, must be sent in within a two-week period, or they may go to the local auto-tag office to fill out the application. The fee money will flow to the Department of Revenue. When the $1,000 limit is reached, the manufacture of the tags will begin. Customers will be notified when their tags are ready for pickup (in about 6-8 weeks). Hodges inquired about the Park’s participation in the revenue stream? Answer: after the first 100 tags, $7.50 per tag will flow to the Park.
Director Hooks reported that October was not a good month for Park revenues, except for the surge in sales of new Parking decals as a consequence of enhanced enforcement at the Greeting Station. Later in the week, there will be a staff meeting to discuss the seriousness of the impact of the weak United States economy on the Park’s revenues and expenditures.
Gloria Zocchi had two questions for the Board. 1) Doesn’t the sea-turtle auto-tag money go to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center? Answer: some of the fee money goes to other non-game conservation, but $7.50 per tag will go to the Turtle Center. 2) Is it necessary to change license-number information with the Greeting Station computer, if one obtains a new sea-turtle tag? Answer: yes, you should check with the Greeting Station personnel.
Chairman Lynn proposed a new holiday for the JISPA staff (24 December, in place of either Presidents’ Day, or Washington’s Birthday). This proposal was approved by the Personnel Committee.
Human Resources Director Cornell Harvey announced a 25-year Faithful Service Award to Debbie Wilkes, Manager of the Welcome Center. Debbie’s retail experience has resulted in over $100,000 per year in income for the Center, and expansion in the Center’s sales inventory (including the popular glass floats), which has helped expand the Center’s visitation (> 100,000 visitors per year). Wilkes also now handles the Park’s mail room, and manages mail-outs, etc.
Chairman Croy congratulated new DNR Commissioner-to-be Clark and commended his previous work on the economic-development side and at GEFA. He looked forward to working with Clark on the Park Authority Board. Croy reported that it is pretty quiet on the legislative side, other than his keeping the key players “up to date on where we’re at”. Croy recently visited the Governor’s Office and the Lt. Governor’s Office, and brought them up to speed on “where we’re at in the negotiations”, as well as letting them know that the Authority Board is pushing forward. Budgetary pressures have not blocked the bond-funding that the Authority Board is seeking. Croy also met with some members of the Park Authority Legislative Oversight Committee to keep them informed.
Frank Mirasola wondered whether the January JISPA Board meeting would be held in Atlanta in 2009? Answer: the subject has come up, but no decision has yet been made.
PUBLIC/PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP COMMITTEE
Chairman Krueger stated that negotiations continue, but he had nothing presently to report.
David Egan inquired about the financing of the linear park that is planned just to the north of the planned new expansion of the Convention Center – would Linger Longer Communities (LLC) be providing any funding? Answer: that is a public area, and the work there will be covered by public monies. Egan persisted: the popular beach area just south of the Convention Center, and its showering, changing and bathroom facilities, will be taken by the LLC timeshare units, so shouldn’t LLC be obligated to help pay, at least in part, for their quality replacements on the north side of the Convention Center? Answer: the Board is well aware of this need, and will take these facts into account in the negotiating process going forward.
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chairman Krueger announced that the second reading of the Park’s FEMA Floodplain Management Ordinance is now before the Board. Senior Facilities Director Ronny Smith noted that FEMA personnel had requested a change in the definitions section of the Park Ordinance, involving referencing of the year of origin of FEMA’s program (corrected to 1984).
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S UPDATE
Director Hooks announced that there would be a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new Birding Platform at the Welcome Center at 11:00 AM that morning, and he invited the audience to attend.
Hooks reported that the new boat ramp behind Tidelands is now 90% complete, and should be open very soon.
Hooks reported that the old Comcast building at the entrance to St. Andrews Park has been removed.
Hooks commended the Summer Waves operation for its successful summer (13,500 visitors over the previous summer). Some significant off-season maintenance expenditures at Summer Waves are planned.
Hooks reported that a suitably buffered area on the north end of the Park could not be found for overnighting of Victoria’s Carriages’ horses. Other options are being explored.
Hooks thanked all of the many residents who volunteered for the Georgia/Florida weekend, and he thanked Johnny and Ginny Paulk for managing the weekends’ events so well.
Chairman Krueger reported that organizing, together with Director Hooks, is continuing for the Jekyll Island Forum, and that he will have something to report soon. He looks forward to the expansion of input into Jekyll Island State Park that he feels the Forum will provide. [IPJI Note: Mr. Krueger has opted to exclude IPJI from the Jekyll Island Forum even though IPJI is the only organization consisting of Jekyll’s visitors and has more than 10,000 supporters. The Forum, which Mr. Krueger says will consist of all major stakeholders in Jekyll Island State Park, will include representatives from Linger Longer Communities and Trammell Crow, hotel managers on Jekyll, members of the local business community, and a representative from the Jekyll Island Citizens Association].
Pat Overholt wondered whether attendees needed to bring their own chairs to the Wanderer commemoration? Answer: no – chairs will be provided.
All business items proposed were approved.
Chairman Krueger noted that it was Veterans’ Day, and requested that any veterans in the audience stand up – they did so, and received a round of applause. Frank Mirasola called for humble George Scheele to stand, and informed the audience that Scheele was an infantryman and machine-gunner in World War II, and had served his country admirably. Scheele received a second round of applause.
Chairman Krueger adjourned the meeting at 10:18 AM.
PUBLIC HEARING FOR MASTER PLAN AMENDMENTS
Director Hooks opened the hearing at 2:00 PM. At the table with him was Project Manager Jim Broadwell. Approximately 20 persons attended the hearing.
Hooks explained that the change to the 1996 Master Plan involves altering the entrance roadway into Jekyll Island State Park, so that it curves to the left, and branches as a “Y” rather than a “T”. Broadwell passed out paper copies describing the change in text and with a map. The amendment can be viewed on the Park Authority website (www.jekyllislandauthority.org) under the heading “Postings”. Hooks called for public comments to be made, and noted that all comments will be recorded and passed along to the Park Authority Board.
Steve Newell noted that it was stated in the text of the proposed Amendment that some of the land in the parcels sketched on the map are currently in the 65% non-developable area of the Park, but the map appeared to show the parcels basically along the current Ben Fortson Parkway, in the current mowed lawns. Newell wondered whether the edges of the parcels outlined were located in the forest? Answer: yes, there is some penetration into the forest. Newell then questioned whether some of this penetration, for Parcel 2, would go into the red-maple/fern wetlands behind the current shopping center? Answer: it does not go into the wetlands. Newell persisted: would any red maples be cut down? Answer: this is uncertain; but note that the map is only conceptual. Newell moved on to Parcel 3: would it be entirely away from the brackish-water lake on the south side of Ben Fortson, and not touch any of the saltmarsh vegetation there? Answer: it will not damage any of the lake’s shoreline vegetation. Newell noted that a 50-foot buffer for saltmarsh vegetation is required by DNR regulations associated with the Marshlands Protection Act – would the new Beachview be 50 feet from the saltmarsh grass along the lake’s shore? Answer: this is uncertain, but your comment will be taken into consideration.
Vance Hughes suggested that a rotary intersection be substituted for the current “Y” plan, to reduce traffic jams on days when a nearly continuous flow of traffic enters the Park. Hughes noted that once folks get used to a rotary intersection, it can be fun. Hooks responded that a roundabout could be an effective means of easing traffic congestion.
Marge Inness of Coastal Georgia Audubon Society asked why only a portion of the Beach Village was shown in the Amendment? Answer: the Amendment deals only with the entranceway to the Village. The full Beach Village plan can be viewed on the Park Authority website.
Laura Renke noted that the text of the proposed Amendment states that the Authority is empowered to sell areas of the Park. She questioned the accuracy of this statement. Answer: there is no empowerment to sell Park land. Vance Hughes noted that in the Master Plan there is language that prohibits sale of any Park land without legislative authorization. Steve Newell noted that HB214 (which protects the south end of the Park from development) included language that prohibits sale of any part of the State Park. Jim Broadwell agreed: HB214 corrected the Plan language, so that no part of the State Park can be sold, but he noted that this does not mean that this prohibition cannot be changed some day.
Director Hooks made a final call for comments, and Roy Lynch (Logix Consultants, Savannah) took the floor. Lynch asked whether any details of the forthcoming contract with Linger Longer Communities could now be shared with the public? Answer: documents are still in preparation, as noted by the Chairman of the Park Authority Board that morning. Lynch expressed his opinion that information about Park changes are not being made widely available to Georgia’s citizenry, which is upsetting many of them. He felt that the Legislative Oversight Committee contains members which were a part of the privatization plan from the outset. Hooks responded that the Authority has an information-distribution process that reaches several hundred thousand recipients, and all developments are posted on the Authority website. Lynch asked that hearings be held at sites in addition to Jekyll Island, and Hooks stated that Lynch’s suggestion would be passed along to the Park Authority Board. Hooks reminded Lynch that the topic of the hearing was the Master Plan Amendment. Lynch agreed, but asked that his main point be included in the record: no useful information is being given to the public about the contract negotiations between Linger Longer Communities (LLC) and the Park Authority Board. Lynch asked that at the very least, a description of the wish-list of LLC be provided to the public. Lynch asserted that Friends of Jekyll organizations are being organized across the State, beginning in Savannah, to encourage release of the contract negotiations between LLC and the Park Authority. Lynch asked for a time frame for release of the contract basics? Answer: no time frame is now available. Lynch inquired whether this release would occur before the contract was signed? Answer: this is unknown. Lynch expressed his opinion that it is absurd that a contract regarding the public’s property would be signed without the public having any input into the content of the contract.
Hooks reminded the audience that folks can continue to provide input to the Authority regarding the proposed Amendment. The Amendment will not be up for final adoption until the Park Authority Board’s meeting on 15 December.
Hooks closed the hearing at 2:22 PM.