Shore Protection Hearing for
    Buccaneer Replacement Hotel

The following is a report of the public hearing that was held by the Georgia Shore Protection Committee (15 May 2008, at the electric cooperative building in Midway, GA), for the purpose of considering the application for a permit under the Shore Protection Act (SPA).  Those applying for the permit were the Jekyll Crow Group, the builders planning to construct the Canopy Bluff Hotel on the site of the demolished Buccaneer Hotel in Jekyll Island State Park.  Steve Fairley of Noble Investment Group spoke for Jekyll Crow Group at the hearing.  Steve described the plans for the new hotel, showing where it would briefly cross over the Shore Protection Act’s jurisdictional line, and defending the new hotel as energy/conservation efficient (LEEDS Silver), and arguing that the hotel management would be dedicated to protection of the critical nesting habitat of loggerhead turtles.

The Staff Findings and Recommendations that were handed out at the hearing, and that were presented via PowerPoint by Karl Burgess of Brunswick DNR to the Canopy Bluff people, are available at CLICK HERE.  In essence, the Shore Protection Committee, headed by DNR Commissioner Noel Holcomb, is demanding of the Canopy Bluff people that they adhere to strict beach-lighting requirements that match those that Steve Newell submitted in his proposed new beach-lighting ordinance for Jekyll Island State Park; this proposed new ordinance was also submitted to the Shore Protection Committee by Steve (representing JICA, the Jekyll Island Citizens Association) as part of his commentary on the SPA-permit application by Jekyll Crow Group.

It was very rewarding to hear Karl Burgess read the lengthy requirements to Steve Fairley, representing the Canopy Bluff group.  Both Noel and Leslie Mattingly of the SP Committee grilled Steve Fairley thoroughly to ensure that he was willing to go along with the special conditions of his permit, and Noel reiterated strongly that when the hotel-lighting details are ready for implementation, they must be brought before the Committee for thorough review and reconsideration of the permit.  Was this a dream, or were the loggerheads really getting their due?!  (It was actually real!)  Leslie Mattingly quoted Steve Newell’s commentary regarding the high value of the Canopy Bluff beach for production of loggerhead hatchlings (1,700 to 3,000 hatchlings produced in average to excellent years) to drill in the point that the special lighting requirements must be followed.  Leslie is a real friend of Mother Nature’s creatures; it is amazing that she is on this Committee.

The biggest problem with the Canopy Bluff application was one that Steve Newell had pointed out twice in his two commentary messages to the Committee – the hotel people are claiming that they cannot now specify their exact lighting placements, etc.  This is why they are being required to come back to the Committee for approval/disapproval of their final lighting plans.  Wes Wolf (lawyer for the Center for a Sustainable Coast) spoke articulately on this point at the hearing, noting that Trammell Crow is such a large and experienced developer that they probably know the exact fiber content of the bedspreads planned for the hotel, so they shouldn’t be allowed to obtain a permit before presenting their final lighting plan.  After Wes spoke, Noel reinforced the condition that the final lighting plan must be brought in its entirety before the Committee for approval.

More than once during the hearing, it was asserted, both by the Committee and by Steve Fairley, that this set of special lighting requirements will set the standard for developers in Jekyll Island State Park(!)

There were two other speakers.  Frank Mirasola (President of JICA) expressed concern about the process of placing the storm-drain vaults under the dunes, because of the difficult-to-reverse damage that the construction machinery could do.  Steve Fairley replied that his group had moved the proposed location of the vaults, so that none of them will now lie under dunes.  Will Berson spoke for the Georgia Conservancy.

All in all, it seemed to Frank Mirasola and Steve Newell (who attended the hearing together) that this permit-application hearing went exceptionally well.  That evening, Steve Newell sent a message to Jim Broadwell (JIA Projects Manager) and copies to JIA Board Chairman Ben Porter and Mike Hodges, who chairs the JIA’s Conservation Committee, suggesting that the Authority get on board with the Shore Protection Committee, and move Steve’s proposed Park beach-lighting ordinance on to adoption.  Mr. Broadwell has since claimed that Steve is simply uninformed regarding JIA/DNR interactions, and that the new ordinance will be adopted at “an appropriate time.”