Five Decade Deal Ties Developer to Jekyll
The company's first project is a $100 million beach village complex.

By CAROLE HAWKINS, Times-Union correspondent
December 2, 2008

JEKYLL ISLAND - Jekyll Island's governing board approved a long-term partnership contract Monday with private developer Linger Longer Communities.
The agreement empowers Linger Longer to build a $100 million beach village complex and provides rights of first refusal to develop and manage all future projects on Jekyll for the next 50 years.
The contract was approved after only five minutes of discussion during a specially called meeting of the Jekyll Island Authority board conducted by conference call. Only board Chairman Bob Krueger and member Mike Hodges were on Jekyll Island.

Speaking after the meeting, Krueger called the beach village project a linchpin to Jekyll's commercial success. The development will rebuild Jekyll's convention center and retail stores and introduce two new hotels and a 160-unit timeshare complex. Krueger said the long-term partnership with Linger Longer will allow the state to get out of the business of running businesses on Jekyll. "We should not be running restaurants and golf courses. Private businesses know how to make money at that type of thing," said Krueger. "It will allow us to run the things that are more state-park oriented, like the refurbishment of the historic district."

The right to first refusal will not lock the authority into contracting with Linger Longer for every project. The board could still reject an individual proposal, Krueger said.

Development watchdogs said such a far-reaching agreement should not have been approved without giving the public a chance to review and comment on the contents.

"I can only conclude that there are conditions in the agreement that are so heinous as to require total secrecy," said Frank Mirasola, former president of the Jekyll Island Citizens Association.

Mirasola was not the only one who wanted more time to review the details. Authority board member Sam Kellet had requested the vote be tabled to give those who were not on the contract committee more time to evaluate the agreement. Kellet's motion died from lack of a second.

State Sen. Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick, whose district includes Jekyll Island, had been asking to review the contract ever since an October meeting of the authority board. Krueger had sent Chapman a letter promising he would review the particulars of the agreement with Chapman "prior to board action." "Once I have a document to discuss, I will be in touch to set a meeting," Krueger wrote in the Oct. 27 letter. But Krueger never followed up, Chapman said.

"To notify everyone last Wednesday of an emergency meeting to decide on a 50-year agreement is totally out of order," Chapman said. "Public notice [of the meeting] wasn't posted until Friday of Thanksgiving Day weekend. This is wrong."