More Fishy Business Biting Off Chunks of Jekyll Island
The Camden County Tribune and Georgian
To the editor
June 5, 2013
If you follow the news from Camden County's favorite beach you know all about the Linger Longer switcharoo development fiasco. However, this new monkey business takes the cake.
Jekyll Island State Park is protected by a 1971 law that limits development to 35% of the "the land area that lies above mean high tide."
The Jekyll Island Authority has been updating the island's Master Plan. A committee of citizens, professionals and The Authority staff worked for over a year reviewing land classifications, what can be considered developed and undeveloped, and updating mapping to determine the island's size. The so called 65/35 committee, using updated scientific data, concluded the island's upland acreage to be about 3,800 acres. This is slightly less than the previous determinations of 4200 acres of upland land in 1996 and 2008. This means that the Authority was slightly over the 35% cap on development by about 3%.
According to law, if The Authority is found to be over the 35% limit, no give back is necessary. However, the Authority can redevelop any property on the island that is currently classified as developed. Available sites for redevelopment include: Two tracts where hotels have already been demolished, redevelopment opportunities remaining at the Hampton Inn site, two new hotels to be constructed at the new convention site, and another hotel property in foreclosure.
In April, the recommendations of the 65/35 committee went to the Jekyll Island Master Plan Steering Committee for review. This is where the story goes into the Twilight Zone.
The Authority, without discussion, announced that the 65/35 report itself would be sent to the State Attorney General for a legal opinion. In fact, what was sent to the Attorney General included a rebuttal of the committee findings and a brand new and much expanded figure for Jekyll's upland area.
The Authority's conclusions in the "report" sent to the State Attorney General claims the island's size to be a whopping 5,543 acres.
An island size of 5,543 acres was obtained by counting some 1,700 acres of upper salt marsh as dry land! The Authority now claims that mean sea high tide level is about a foot lower than 2008. Well, let me tell you, here in Camden County the sea level has been rising, not falling. Is hot air under Jekyll Island pushing up the island?
Why count upper marsh as dry land?
The bigger the island, the bigger the area that is eligible for commercial development under the 65/35 formula. Claiming 1,700 acres of marsh as upland will open up another 600 acres of true upland for development. Another 600 acres of our public live oaks, virgin pine forests and beach front could be lost to private development.
Dr. Gerard Krewer