The Brunswick News - 2008 Articles


Articles:

Hotel Revival is Key to Jekyll's Recovery
(2006 article included for background information)

Sneaky Tactic Affects Jekyll's Future

Jekyll Redevelopment Revised

Jekyll Design in State of Flux

Watchdogs Keep Eye on Jekyll Plan

Jekyll Plan Revisions Stalled

Brunswick Future Tied to Jekyll

Jekyll Plan Revisions Continue

JIA Board Member Blasts Colleagues

JIA Strikes Back at Sen. Boshears




Hotel revival is key to recover from declining room revenues

The Brunswick News
Mon, May 1, 2006
By MARY STARR

Jekyll Island saw its first heyday more than 100 years ago when the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts and Morgans established the Jekyll Island Club as a retreat for the nation's wealthiest industrialists and financiers.

The good old days seemed to have returned during the state's July 1 through June 30 fiscal years of 2001 and 2004, when gross hotel revenue on the state-owned island inched close to $28 million.
Between the 2004 and 2005 fiscal years, however, revenue took a deep plunge, dropping by more than $2 million.

Eric Garvey, senior director of marketing for the Jekyll Island Authority, says three factors contributed to the decrease:
* Changing economic conditions.
* Weather related incidents.
* Hotel closures, renovations and ownership changes,

Mirroring the economy. Hotels on Jekyll Island reached peak room revenues during the 2001 fiscal year of July 1, 2000, to June 30, 2001, partly as a result of being at the zenith of a national economic upturn.

According to Garvey, subsequent year declines where related to the overall slump in the U.S. economy and its effect not only on post-Sept. 11, 2001, leisure travel after terrorist attacks, but also on budget constraints put on government and state associations.

Garvey said Jekyll Island was able to build back and exceed its 2001 totals during the 2004 fiscal year of July 1, 2003, to June 30, 2004, because of the Group of 8 conference held on Sea Island in June of that year.

Record revenues are predicted this year for several Jekyll Island hotels.

"The hotels that have committed management are doing great," Garvey said. "Hotels that are being sold usually reduce marketing and product-improvement spending, and their business suffers short-term."
Kevin Runner, general manager of the Jekyll Island Club Hotel, said he expects a strong year this year.

"March and April of this year were better than last," he said. "May is looking good and it looks strong in June and July."

Runner said that his property, because of its lack of a beachfront location, is not people's first summer vacation choice, but it always does well.

"As long as the island does well (during the summer), we do well," Runner said.

Stormy weather. Garvey said the story about the revenue drop off between the 2004 and 2005 fiscal years is weather.

"The National Weather Service began using a five-day forecast model for hurricanes, and in August and September 2004 we had five major hurricanes that, at some point, were forecast to hit Jekyll Island," Garvey said.

The island suffered no hurricane damage because the hurricanes moved away from the Georgia Coast sometime during that five-day time frame, but the financial damage was extensive.

"Several big weekends, including Labor Day, were a washout," Garvey said. "We lost several groups, including the very large Georgia Baptist Senior Convention, during one of the storm weekends. Most of those groups did not reschedule."

According to figures from the Jekyll Island Authority, the direct lodging revenue loss due to the hurricane threat was $885,000.

Two hotels did receive some damages. Jason Smith, general manager of the Buccaneer Beach Resort, formerly the Clarion, said that the Buccaneer and its sister property, Oceanside Inn – formerly the Comfort Inn – suffered extensive damage during a storm in September 2004 which took off one roof at the Oceanside and damaged two roofs at the Buccaneer.

"There was a hurricane that came across Florida, skirted south of Jacksonville and made its way up the coast," Smith said, referring to Hurricane Jeanne. "While it wasn't a direct hit, we did suffer damage from that storm."

Garvey said one of the buildings at the Buccaneer is still not being used, which takes about 48 rooms, or 3 percent of Jekyll Island's accommodations, out of service.

Changes. Also contributing to the decrease in lodging revenue were transitions in hotel management and ownership and the complete loss of one property.

The Georgia Coast Inn closed in January 2004 and is now in federal bankruptcy proceedings.

Garvey said the changes will continue, beginning with the Holiday Inn's anticipated closure on May 31.

"The story moving forward is that there will be pressure on overall hotel revenues as several of our oceanside hotels change ownership and plan for redevelopment," said Garvey, referring to the new lodging predicted for Jekyll Island.

According to the Jekyll Island Club Hotel's Runner, that change can't come too soon.
"Jekyll has lost numerous state association conventions because there are not enough quality accommodations on the island," Runner said. "We need another 800 to 1,000 quality rooms to attract that business, and right now, we have about 400 rooms that are up to par."
Garvey predicts that Jekyll Island will see a 10 percent decline in revenue for the 2007 fiscal year which begins July 1.
"As the Holiday Inn, Georgia Coast Inn and possibly the Buccaneer and Oceanside change ownership and move forward, we see healthy growth starting in 2008 and sustained for many years," Garvey said.
________________________
Falling dollars
Jekyll Island's hotel room revenues fell more than $2 million from fiscal 2004 to fiscal 2005. This is the amount of room revenue for hotels by fiscal year (July 1 of the preceding calendar year through June 30 of the specified year) since 1998:
1998 $22,099,882
1999 $25,129,147
2000 $25,041,756
2001 $27,539,737
2002 $26,197,042
2003 $26,333,253
2004 $27,859,427
2005 $25,816,762
2006 $25,902,620 (est.)
Source: Jekyll Island Authority


Sneaky tactic affects Jekyll Island's future

The Brunswick News
COMMENTARY
Tuesday, March 25, 2008

It is a common practice among politicians, but that doesn't make attaching unwanted amendments to popular legislation right. It's a sneaky, back-door tactic that is tantamount to trying to shove something distasteful and unnecessary down the throats of Georgians.

This is what Rep. Debbie Buckner, D-Columbus, is doing. She's resorting to this old-time political trick after running into a brick wall when trying earlier this session of the General Assembly to get legislation through that would throw a wrench into plans by Linger Longer Communities to rejuvenate Jekyll Island.

Rep. Buckner tacked her bill in the form of an amendment onto legislation that would extend the life of the Coastal Zone Management Act by removing the act's expiration date.

Because of the amendment, the legislation narrowly escaped defeat in the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee Thursday, passing 9-8. Now, those who depend on the Coastal Zone Management Act for funding to protect coastal resources are apprehensive about the future of CZM.

Rep. Buckner's amendment seeks to block certain development from certain areas of the Jekyll Island waterfront. It's built upon the pretense that the public will no longer have access to the beach if the $342 million revitalization plan is allowed to go forward as is.
To begin with, no one knows what the final version of the plan will be. Secondly, why would anyone spend or invest $342 million in a project that would deny people access to the one drawing card that Jekyll Island has, which is the beach? It just wouldn't make sense.

What Rep. Buckner is attempting to do is micro-manage the repair and long-overdue overhaul of Jekyll Island.

Jekyll Island has gone nowhere but downhill over the past two decades. It will continue the current rate of descension unless politicians stop trying to crush or maim every plan that professional consultants come up with to improve the island.



Jekyll redevelopment revised
The Brunswick News
Thursday, April 3, 2008
By HANK ROWLAND

The Jekyll Island Authority, feeling pressure from state legislators and citizens, is backing away from plans to put hotels and condos on the public parking lot north of the existing convention center.

Instead, the area will be improved as a public parking area and used as a public park. It also will be the site of an environmental conservation center.

Ben Porter, chair of the authority, announced the JIA's change of heart in a letter to House Majority Leader Jerry Keen, R-St. Simons Island, Wednesday.

The initial $342 million redevelopment blueprint proposed by Linger Longer Communities incorporated the north parking lot in plans for new hotels and condominiums.

"After conferring with our revitalization partner, Linger Longer Communities, we have made the decision to limit use of this area to...public purposes and not development of accommodations, such as hotels or condominiums," Porter wrote in the letter.

Porter said taking the park out of the line of development makes the amendment added to Senate Bill 267 by Rep. Debbie Buckner, D-Columbus, unnecessary. Buckner's amendment, stalled in the House and not expected to go anywhere, would prohibit development of the parking area at the waterfront.

"In fact, it is overly restrictive in that it would prohibit JIA's plans by only allowing the addition of picnic tables, bathhouses and restrooms," Porter stated in the letter. "The Buckner amendment would prohibit any 'additional project,' development or other improvement, including landscaping, improved beach access and the (proposed) environmental conservation center."

In a joint statement following JIA's announcement, Buckner and Rep. DuBose Porter, D-Dublin, who supported the amendment, lauded the board's decision.

"Thanks to the thousands of concerned citizens that made their voices known about protecting the beach at Jekyll Island the powers-at-be are now moving in the right direction," they said.

Sen. Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick, who has been questioning the revitalization project ever since its unveiling, also praised the change, but noted, "Of course the actual details have not yet unfolded, so we will be looking for the final drawings of the plan."

Ed Boshears, a former state senator and a member of the board of the Jekyll Island Authority, said the clash with residents was preventable.

"This whole thing could have been avoided if (Ben) Porter and the authority had ordered an environmental study," Boshears said. "We have wasted six months now because the chair of the authority didn't do what he should have done."

Don't expect the controversy to end there, Boshears warns.

"There are going to be a whole lot more questions about this," he said. "They are going to move the project west and that's going to open up an all new issue about the maritime forest and whether they are any wetlands there."



Jekyll design in constant flux
The Brunswick News
April 9, 2008
By Anna Ferguson

Linger Longer Communities is changing its plan for the Jekyll Island waterfront, but don't ask it where it will put anything now.

It's still in the process of deciding how its proposed $342 million development will fit into the state-owned island.
A change of plans became necessary after the company announced last week that the development it's proposing for the state park will no longer swallow the parking lot north of the Jekyll Island Convention Center.

The half-mile section of open beach will be left for public use.

Originally, the portion of land was slated to be the hub of visitor activity, housing the Beach Village portion of the plan. Lodging, retail spaces, a nature center and cottages had been designated for the town center space.

Linger Longer changed its mind about the parking lot following public outcry over preserving the section of open beach.

Now, it is eyeing the area for a possible putt putt golf course, playground and greenspace, said Jim Langford, Linger Longer's executive director of the Jekyll Island project.

  "The design is in constant flux, but we have key points that we know will be included," said Langford.
Building condominiums and cottages for part-time residences on the island also remains a topic of debate. Langford could not comment on whether part-time residences will still be included in new designs but noted that plans will be announced in coming weeks.

The Jekyll Island Authority wasn't surprised when Linger Longer announced the new route the developers will take, said Eric Garvey, spokesman for the authority.

"We knew Linger Longer's original plan was only a concept plan," Garvey said. "It was only a starting point. We are very excited about what they have in the works."

From the beginning, Linger Longer's concept plan had received a stream of questions and negative feedback regarding building on the half-mile beach.

"Even our own staff had questions," Garvey said. "But that was a main reason we went with a private partner, so we could have experts. We trust their expertise."



Watchdogs keep eye on Jekyll plans
The Brunswick News
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
By ANNA FERGUSON

Jekyll Island residents are shifting their concerns westward now that some of their fears regarding the state park's revitalization proposal have been put to rest.

At the Jekyll Island Authority's monthly board meeting Monday, residents said they are pleased that a public parking lot north of the convention center will not be absorbed by the proposed $342 million redevelopment of the state park as was originally planned.

They are, however, concerned about what that means to the maritime forest, an area west of the beach that will now be affected by the project.

The redevelopment plan, still not in its final form, calls for new hotels, a shopping district and new convention center.

Linger Longer Communities, the company selected by the authority to redevelop 62 acres of the island, announced in March that it was abandoning its original concept to develop the parking area adjacent to the beach as commercial space. Instead, the area will be open for public use, with plans for green space, a playground and an environmental discovery center.

The proposed elimination of the parking lot and its access to the beach have been prominent in opponents' attacks on the redevelopment plan.

Ben Porter, chair of the board of the Jekyll Island Authority, said new plans are being made for the north parking area.

"This is a crumbling parking lot," Porter said. "It's not attractive. We plan to protect the beach in this area by making it only public and green space."

As with some residents, Ed Boshears, who serves on the board of the authority, wants to know what's being done to protect the natural areas of the island that are inland. He said an environmental study should be conducted before Linger Longer begins making new plans.

"We need an environment study to see what can legally be built before Linger Longer building plans are approved," Boshears said. "We shouldn't cause Linger Longer to waste millions of dollars on a proposal."

Porter attempted to allay his fears, saying protecting the island's sensitive ecosystem is a main concern for the authority. He said an environmental study is already under way and that results of the study will be released as soon as the review is complete.

"We will do all that is necessary to keep in compliance with Georgia law," Porter said. "We continue to meet with Linger Longer to massage the plan and a revised plan will be published as soon as possible."

The meeting got heated at times, with Boshears accusing other board members of being "grossly irresponsible" and criticizing them for calling Sen. Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick, a liar.

In opposing the original plan, Chapman had claimed the board failed to report more than $11 million in revenue over the past decade in an attempt to make the need for revitalization more urgent.

Porter and board member Stephen Croy called Chapman's remarks inaccurate.

They made their comments during the past session of the state General Assembly when Chapman was pushing for legislation to block the use of the north parking lot.

Boshears said he resented the fact that the two acted as if speaking for the entire board when countering the claim.

"I do not endorse or condone it. That was stupid of you," said Boshears, a former Republican state senator. "It may well be that Sen. Chapman is governor before long."

Croy said he could not believe what Boshears was saying.

"This would be humorous if it were not such a serious situation," Croy said. "I don't need your critique. Chapman was called out for attacking our credibility with his erroneous numbers. More people were upset with the senator then with us."



Rules, New Ideas Taking Time
The Brunswick News
Wednesday, 18 June 2008
By Anna Ferguson,

The public will have to wait a little longer for Linger Longer Communities to reveal new plans for the Jekyll Island beachfront.

Linger Longer, the private firm designated to carry out the $342 million initial redevelopment of the state-owned island, is still working on revising the initial blueprint for the Beach Village space.

The initial plan, released in September, returned to the drawing board following complaints from citizens and concerns by state legislators, including Sen. Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick, who represents the island in the General Assembly.

The Jekyll Island Authority is anticipating a revised plan by August.

"It is my understanding that they are revising the plan and making sure that all elements are viable from a financial perspective, as well as a construction and development perspective," said Eric Garvey, marketing director for the authority.

Under the original plan, Linger Longer had eyed a half-mile portion of parking lot north of the existing convention center to build the Beach Village. As proposed, the village would feature retail space, lodging, a nature center and cottages.

The half-mile sector of land is now designated to remain open.

The switch in design came following some public opposition this spring. Opponents maintained that the portion of land should be left open.

As it now stands, that same land may now be used for a miniature golf course, playground and green space, said Jim Langford, Linger Longer's executive director of the project.

Linger Longer's goal is to build a center that will have minimal environmental impact and that will benefit the community, Langford said.

Carrying out those standards is a major reason for the delay in plans, Langford said.

Environmental limitations and regulations, such as the Shore Line Protection and Marshland Protection acts, have added to the length of time it is taking Linger Longer to release a new plan.

"We are studying and researching all those acts," Langford said. "That's not an easy thing to do. We are trying to do this responsibly.

"This type of project is not something that can be rushed."

A slumping economy has nothing to do with progress on the project.

"This type of delay is typical, due to the size and complexity of this project," Garvey said.

Public input will be sought after Linger Longer reworks its original design.

Shuffling through notes and suggestions is a task that Linger Longer managers have taken to heart and is another hurdle to mount before a revised plan can be cemented, Langford said.

"Compiling all these suggestions and information has taken time," he said. "We've received some specific suggestions and some not specific suggestions. They are all being taken very seriously and will play a large role in our new design."

At the end of the Commentary you will find Letters to the Editor in response to the editorial

Community's future lies with Jekyll Island

The Brunswick News
Monday, August 11, 2008
Commentary

The recent announcement by the Sea Island Co. that it was laying off 300 to 400 employees shook the community.

More than that, it shook the affected individuals and their families, who must now find other sources of income.

Given Sea Island's history of loyalty and dedication to the community and to the people who make it the internationally famous resort that it is, the layoffs were no doubt a necessary reaction and unavoidable consequence of a weak economy.

Rest assured, the company had no other recourse.

It serves as yet another stark reminder to the rest of us, though, just how important it is for our community to take its jobs and its future seriously and to continue to diversify and strengthen the economy of Brunswick and the Golden Isles.

We owe that much to ourselves and to the hundreds of people who are today suddenly without work due to no fault of their own.

This includes not letting diamonds just sit in the ground.

It benefits no one to do that, especially those who are unemployed and desperate for a steady paycheck.

Georgia and the Golden Isles have been guilty of that for a long time on the coast and to some extent, continues to be so, even when others are suffering job loss and financial distress.

The diamond in this case is Jekyll Island, a state park that can be much more than it is.

It could be revamped in such a way as to become both a super-educational tool for those who believe in protecting the environment and a star attraction with a gravitational pull capable of entertaining crowds that are much larger than the ones that visit there today.

An effort to utilize this asset, not destroy it, over the past year has yielded little result.

Every plan and proposal has been met with opposition.

Everything that Linger Longer Communities comes up with just never seems to be good enough. Someone is always objecting.

Well, it's time to put away the swords and work together for the common good of all citizens of this community and state.

Jekyll Island is not Cumberland Island, a national seashore that by law allows very little human interaction.

It's a place purchased by the state for all to enjoy, including those who fancy dining and shopping on the ocean.

It's impossible to achieve this goal with what the island has now.

Yes, we can have our cake and eat it too if we work together and take careful, well thought-out steps.

Letters
The Brunswick News
Fri, Aug 15, 2008

Driving onto an island, with native plant landscaping and tree canopy, birds and wildlife galore, a breathtaking open vista of the ocean and an easy stroll to the beach to get sand between your toes. Check into one of the many upgraded, modest hotels that won't break the bank and plan your next day at the beach or biking or kayaking. That's what most Georgians and visitors are asking to preserve on this state owned island. The News still doesn't get it.

Private interests and profit should not drive this public project. The public outcry to slow down this fast moving train centers on two proposals by the JIA.

First, it's hard to find rationale other than quick profits for adding thousands of privately owned condos, cottages time shares and an upscale "town center" to support residents and guests on a state owned island, a public park.

Secondly, the developers have little or no incentive to build hotels that are 'affordable for all Georgians' as the creating law demands.

Thousands of Georgians, not just local residents, have expressed that they want to – conserve nature's gift to us, preserve the cultural history, and upgrade hotel and tourist related facilities. They want assurances that all will be adequately funded and maintained. No one demands the status quo.

Joann C. Cook
St. Simons Island


Dear Editor,
Why do you continue to jam down our throats your love affair and support for Linger Longer. The survey was conducted and the figures speak for themselves. Georgians do not want Linger Longer's grand design for the town center plan.

All we want is a nice grocery store, pharmacy, post office, gift shop and restaurants that all can afford to eat at. We do not want condos associated with it. Period!

Read your own press. Just recently you interviewed hotel and restaurant owners on the island and they clearly stated that visitors wanted affordable lodging and food.

I still contend that you support them in return of advertising dollars proceeds to the Brunswick News from new retail/real estate sources produced from Linger Longer's grand plan.
Martha Lang
Darien


I am writing to respond to the editorial in Monday's Brunswick News, entitled 'Community's Future Lies With Jekyll Island'. Job losses to families are always wrenching. Larger layoffs affect communities. With gas prices rising beyond reason, the first things people forgo is travel and tourism.

However, to tie the upgrading of many of the facillities and the rebuilding of outdated lodging in Jekyll Island State Park to the economic recovery of the Brunswick/Golden Isles community is a bit over-reaching.

The editorial states that resident obstructionism impacts the proposed rebuilding of Jekyll Island's outdated facillities by Linger Longer Communities. This is far from the truth.
The vast majority of businesses, residents, tourists, and visitors to Jekyll Island State Park want to see an overdue upgrade. This upgrade of Georgia's Jewel should not be on beaches, on sand dunes, in the maritime forests, salt marshes, on bird and loggerhead sea turtle nesting areas. The reason people come to Jekyll Island State Park is for the natural, unspoiled beauty that is available to everyone at reasonable costs.

Upgrades - bring 'em on; but LLC must obey the existing environmental laws, already in place, and keep in mind the purpose of the park.

We have already begun this upgrade with the construction of the first new hotel in thirty years, on the old Holiday Inn site.
Jim Gertis
Jekyll Island


Your "Community's future lies with Jekyll Island" editorial seems to be more of the same on your part. You state that "Every plan and proposal has been met with opposition" That's true. However there has been only one plan proposed – a plan for hundreds of condos and multiple hotels on prime beachfront greatly valued by Jekyll visitors.
You state that "Someone is always objecting." That's also true – the "someones" are thousands of Georgians all over the state that see the difference between high-end resorts (e.g. Sea Island and Hilton Head) and a state park. They come to be on the one quiet beachfront on Georgia's coast.

The replacements of the Holiday Inn (ground already broken) and Buccaneer motels promise plenty of the "high end dining" you seem to desire. We simply don't need the massive invasion of the sort proposed by Linger Longer.

Howard Sculthorpe
Jekyll Island


Dear Editor,
With all due respect, I completely disagree with the editorial on Jekyll Island. You said that "Everything Linger Longer Communities comes up with just never seems to be good enough. Someone is always objecting." Personally, I suspect the overwhelming majority of Georgians who know and love Jekyll are the "someone" that is objecting. And with good reason, I would say. We favor revitalization, but not aggressive development. We are sensible people, not cranks and mindless malcontents. It is clear that Jekyll is one of a kind, a casual, affordable, unpretentious, beautiful, serene haven for people and wildlife. And for your dining and shopping options, might I suggest you try St. Simons right next door? Jekyll is the people's park and a natural refuge, we must not sell it out, we must preserve its character for present and future generations.
Charlie Busfield
Marietta


The economic setback regarding Sea Island, referred to in your Aug. 11 editorial is very sad news. However, I believe it would be most unfortunate if this were to encourage the kind of development on Jekyll Island that Linger Longer has been proposing. I am a Canadian who has visited Jekyll Island each year for the past 15 years and can report that it is the absolute uniqueness that Jekyll presently possesses that keeps so many of us coming back.

Quite simply, there is no where else in North America that could replace it. Yes, accommodations must be renovated and rebuilt but this can be done on the existing footprints without spoiling the environment that presently attracts people from near and far. My family and I spend more than $10,000 US in the Golden Isles each year because we are drawn there by Jekyll Island. Jekyll is rightly called a "jewel." Its features should be polished, they should not be reduced.
Robin Banks
Waterloo, Ontario
Canada


Dear Editor:
I have never sent a letter to a newspaper in my 52 years, but feel compelled to do so at this time.

My family and I are extremely concerned about what a certain company is attempting to do to "improve" Jekyll Island. Certainly some renovations need to occur, but not a the expense of doing a total facelift so Jekyll resembles fast-paced commercial resort areas. The main reason my family and I have been faithfully vacationing at Jekyll for almost 25 years is because of the serene beauty and peace that make the island unique. Let's do the absolute necessary improvements but not turn Jekyll into an island we won't recognize any longer.
Patti Moore
Stockbridge


Each time I think the Brunswick News has bottomed out in pushing Linger Longer's town center project, the paper's editors somehow manage to pull another rabbit out of the hat, this time by asserting that, "everything that Linger Longer comes up with just never seems to be good enough. Someone is always objecting."

Well, let's look at the facts – you know, those troublesome little details that keep getting in the way of the yarn the Brunswick News is trying to spin.

First, unless the News is privy to something the rest of the state has missed, Linger Longer has submitted only one proposal and has not yet come up with anything else.

Second, that condo-rich proposal has been rejected by the vast majority of Jekyll's visitors, as statewide surveys and a crush of articles and editorials appearing in reputable newspapers across Georgia have made clear. Contrary to what The Brunswick News is implying, objection to a flawed proposal is not obstructionism but rather good common sense.

Lastly, after slashing away at Linger Longer's critics, The News has the nerve to state, "It's time to put away the swords and work together for the common good of all citizens of this community and state." The "common good" for Jekyll, which eludes The News but is obvious to most folks, calls for the provision of the reasonably-priced, family-friendly lodgings and amenities – the kind of facilities ones would expect to find in a state park.
Mindy Egan
Jekyll Island


Reworked Jekyll plan in limbo

The Brunswick News
Saturday, August 30, 2008
By ANNA FERGUSON

Residents here and across the state have been waiting for months for Linger Longer Communities to release its updated master plan for the revitalization of Jekyll Island.

And as things now stand, they will have to keep waiting.

A revised master plan was expected to be released in August. That wasn't to be, and officials on all sides of the revitalization planning process are now hesitant to make predictions about when they think the plan will be ready.

The plan could be announced at the Sept. 15 board meeting for the Jekyll Island Authority, the decision-making body for the island. However, it may be further down the road, said Eric Garvey, marketing director for the authority.

"There is a lot of anxiety over this process," Garvey said.

Linger Longer, the private firm designated to carry out the $342 million redevelopment of an oceanside part of the state-owned island, anticipates releasing its revised master plan soon, but an exact time frame isn't yet known, said Jim Langford, project executive for Linger Longer.

Under the original plan for Jekyll Island, released nearly a year ago, Linger Longer proposed to build a village town center with retail shops and restaurants, lodging, a new convention center and possibly part-time residences.

A half-mile section of land from the original design had been tagged for development but was taken back to the drawing board this past spring following the onset of naysayers and public complainants, including from state Sen. Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick, who represents the island in the Legislature.

Linger Longer has now offered to use the half-mile portion of land for public use, with ideas of constructing a miniature golf course, playground and green space, Langford said.

Throughout the design process, Linger Longer said it has been working to have minimal environmental impacts on the island's sensitive ecosystem. Keeping such ideals in line has created a lengthier planning process and made matters more complicated, Langford said.

Negotiating contracts, too, has proven to be a longer process than Linger Longer had anticipated, Langford said.

"This is much more complex process than anyone thought it would be," Langford said. "I don't want to make predictions about when the plan will be ready because I have done that before and been wrong. But we are working as fast as we can." 

Jekyll critic's claims dismissed as 'laughable'
The Brunswick News
FridaySeptember 26, 2008
By ANNA FERGUSON


Claims of corruption and dishonesty within the Jekyll Island revitalization project made by a former board member are unfounded and laughable, according to a spokesman for Gov. Sonny Perdue and members of the Jekyll Island Authority board.

Perdue wholly disagrees with statements made in a letter sent Wednesday to The News by Ed Boshears, a a former member of the board of the Jekyll Island Authority and a former Glynn County state senator, said Bert Brantley, spokesman for the governor.

"These claims are far from being based in reality," Brantley said. "They are laughable."
In the e-mail letter, Boshears stated that the authority's board, the governing and decision-making body for the state park, is working for profit and not in the best interest of the island or Georgians.

Boshears claimed that Perdue, authority chair Bob Krueger, former chair Ben Porter and Mercer Reynolds, a founder of Linger Longer Communities, the company selected to revitalize a portion of Jekyll Island, have been acting in unethical manners, have held secret meetings and are attempting to privatize the state park by creating a cash-crop island littered with oceanfront condominiums.

Following up on his letter, Boshears said Thursday that the $342 million revitalization plan for the island has been delayed more than a year because Porter and others "care more about lining their pockets."

"Porter and Krueger are both developers, and their being on the board is a complete conflict of interest," Boshears said. "Revitalization has been delayed over a year because board members are more concerned with Linger Longer making money on condos."

However, meeting minutes supplied by the authority show that Boshears has not always been opposed to tapping Linger Longer for the million-dollar project. When the vote was made in 2007, Boshears not only voted in favor of the developers, but he also was the board member who seconded the motion.

Porter and Krueger were both out of the country Thursday, but sent statements to The News by e-mail addressing Boshears claims.

In his e-mail, Porter noted that Boshears has long opposed the plan for redevelopment of the island and that "his charges, untrue and unfounded, reflect his continuing attempts to obstruct the authority's plans to make Jekyll Island a more desirable destination for all Georgians."

Krueger, too, said Boshears' attack was not a shock. "Mr. Boshears' attacks follow familiar lines, and we place absolutely no credence in them," Krueger said.

Boshears sent the letter Wednesday, the day after Perdue replaced him on the authority board with Rep. Richard Royal, R-Camilla. His term ended in June.

Boshears said his departure from the board did not come as a surprise. He said he was not reappointed because "I was asking questions. I wasn't going to go along with their plans. And the simple explanation is, they didn't want me asking questions."

In his letter, Boshears wrote that the governor had directed the authority board to chose Linger Longer to develop the island because the governor and the governor's business partners would reap the benefits from profitable developments.

Spokesman Brantley said the governor does not attempt to steer authority board members in any one direction. Every decision made by Perdue in conjunction with the board is done with the state and Jekyll Island's best interests in mind, Brantley said.

Boshears also stated in his letter that an independent outside agency, such as a grand jury, needs to be brought in to investigate the situation, with actions on any agreement between the authority and Linger Longer to be deferred until such an investigation has been completed.

He also contended that Perdue should "cease any involvement at all in the management and control of Jekyll Island" and that "Mr. Porter and Mr. Krueger should be removed from the board for unethical conduct."

Although Boshears said the timing of his replacement came on the eve of a vital, pending contract signing between the board and Linger Longer – a contract which he had asked to examine more closely with a team of attorneys – the authority says there was nothing abnormal about the reassignment in members.

"(Boshears) appears to be pretty upset that he was replaced on the board, but there is really nothing to be upset about. It was all very normal procedure," said Eric Garvey, spokesman for the Jekyll Island Authority. "There was nothing extraordinary about the way it happened."

Despite his finger-pointing, Boshears said he supports efforts to revitalizes the island. A new convention center, new hotels and leisure centers need to be added to the island. He said he only opposes the option of constructing ocean-front condominiums for the point of profit.

"I want to make it clear that I am very much in favor of revitalizing Jekyll Island," Boshears said. "But they are going about it the wrong way. Until Porter and Krueger are off the board, things will only continue in this same flawed way."