Record of the Jekyll Island State Park Authority (JISPA) Board Meeting of 21 May 2012, in Morgan Center, as recorded for JICA
Note: IPJI has placed some text in "bold" type for emphasis and has clarified
some statements in blue.
Chairman Bob Krueger brought the meeting to order at 9:30 AM. Board members present were Steve Croy, Buddy DeLoach, Mike Hodges, Al Ike, Sybil Lynn, and Richard Royal. Laura Lanier and Mark Williams were on conference telephone. Also present were Park Authority Executive Director Jones Hooks and Nancy Gallagher of the State Attorney General’s Office. The audience numbered about 32 persons.
CONSERVATION AND PRESERVATION
Historic Resources Director John Hunter provided an update on progress in the move to update the Park’s Master Plan. Hunter noted that the first round of Task Force (advisory to the Fanning Institute and the Park Authority in the updating work) meetings was completed on 27 April. Fanning has taken the Task Force input, and combined it with input from Park Authority staff, to prepare an outline of the new Master Plan, and to prepare for the next round of Task Force work. Fanning now expects to produce two main documents for the Master Plan, the Master Plan proper, and the design for implementation of the Master Plan. The Master Plan will outline the general goals and visions for Jekyll Island State Park, along with the principles used to achieve them. Short-, medium- and long-term goals will be included. As a part of the implementation, there will be yearly monitoring of achievements. Most of the Task Forces will be meeting next at the end of June, and the 65/35 Task Force will meet in the middle of June. The information already collected from the Task Forces is being used to plan for review by outside experts selected by the Task Forces, for drawing up a base map showing the 65% of the Park that will be exempt from development, and for examining current science regarding mean high tide and Park definitions of uplands.
Landscape Director Cliff Gawron gave a presentation on an inventory of beach vegetation in the Park. The goal was to determine what plant communities were present in the back dunes between the beach and the residences in the northeastern part of the Park. This strip of Park land contains a fragile back-dune flora, that has been impacted by storm damage, vista clearing, pedestrian traffic, etc. The Park’s Conservation Plan designates this strip of back-dune land as a Special Protection Zone, in part because endangered species of plants live there, and the critical habitats of endangered animals are protected in and near this Zone when it is healthy. The vista-clearing impact should be countered by enforcement of the Park’s tree ordinance (written permission is required for removal or trimming of trees). The State’s Shore Protection Act also comes into play here. A recent case of plant removal and burning in this Zone has resulted in the leaseholder who did the clearing having to pay for remediation efforts. No permits are currently being issued by the Park Authority for partial clearing in this Zone, until the Park’s Conservation Committee (established in the Park’s Conservation Plan) renders a decision regarding the suitability of partial clearing. There are some invasive species of plants that can become established in this Zone, including the aggressive Beach Vitex (which can push roots into sea-turtle nests, seriously damaging them).
Chairman Hodges reported that for the month of April net operating cash income for the Park was $328 thousand, 81% better than budgeted. For the fiscal year to date, net income was $669 thousand, 184% better than budgeted, and 34% better than income at this point in the previous fiscal year.
Communications Director Eric Garvey reported that the soft-opening events for the new Convention Center were very successful. Guest numbers and guest experience were above expectation. Garvey played a recording of a message from Coastal College of Georgia President Valerie Hepburn about the value of the College’s experience with their graduation ceremonies in the Convention Center. She strongly complimented the appearance of the Center and the management of the graduation ceremonies.
Garvey played a video and presented some direct-mail postcards showing the Park as the Marketing Division is rebranding it. There was an emphasis upon daytime outdoor recreational activities and natural surroundings. Key media outlets have also published helpful articles (e.g. Georgia Trend; Golden Isles Visitors Guide).
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chairman Krueger introduced Matt Maynor, VP of CenterState Bank of Florida, the bank that is now in charge of selling the closed Jekyll Oceanfront Resort. Maynor prefaced his update by remarking that he has been coming to Jekyll Island State Park since he was 5 years old. He had attended the ribbon-cutting at the Convention Center, and stated that the quality of the Center will help him in his efforts to sell the Oceanfront Resort. The Oceanfront has been shown to 40+ prospects, and three continue to show interest. Maynor felt that more potential buyers will show interest, now that the Convention Center is open. Maintaining the Oceanfront, and attempting to sell it has now cost the bank over $1 million. Maynor predicted that, given that the new Convention Center has opened, the bank will have the sale of the Oceanfront under contract within 60 days. When the bank took over the Oceanfront, there were squatters on the property, and thefts of air conditioners, etc., were taking place. When Ron Johnson put his receivership in place, no further theft occurred. List price for the property is currently $6.9 million, but this price will be dropped soon to low sixes or upper fives, following revaluation. The bank is prepared to arrange sources of financing for potential buyers of the Oceanfront Resort. Ron Johnson added that he now has three Georgia State Patrol officers living at the Oceanfront, to provide added security. Chairman Krueger inquired whether the potential buyers understand what the Park Authority is looking for with regard to quality of hotel accommodations in the Park? Answer: the bank is not going to sell to potential buyers that do not intend to rehab the property and make it a high quality hotel. Maynor pledged to keep Director Hooks informed of progress in the sale of the Oceanfront.
Director Hooks thanked everyone for their participation in the ribbon-cutting for the grand opening of the new Convention Center. At least 500 people attended the ceremony, in spite of the rainy weather.
The temporary Convention Campus is being dismantled, and will be entirely gone by the date of the June Board meeting.
RetailWorks, the company working on recruitment of entrepreneurs to fill the Retail Center adjacent to the new Convention Center, has sent out 27 letters of interest, and received 11 responses. Initial interviews are now being conducted.
The Chatrala Group is no longer involved in the mid-priced-hotel project for the Beach Village (the Hyatt Place). The Phelps Group is still handling the project, working with Hyatt.
PNC Bank has set three conditions for funding of the full-service hotel (the Westin hotel) in the Beach Village: 1) a loan guarantee from USDA; 2) approval of the project under the Georgia Tourism Development Act; 3) assurance of completion of the Retail Center in the Village prior to completion of the Westin. Hooks was optimistic that these conditions are on the way to being met, and that the Westin groundbreaking would take place in early fall.
Construction of the new Guest Information Center on the Jekyll Causeway should be completed by mid-June.
Two bike-path projects have been bid-out, Phase 3 of the Riverview Bike Path (low bidder: Woodward Construction, $137 thousand) and Island Hopper Bike Trail, connecting the Park bike paths to mainland trails (low bidder: Jaeger Company, Gainesville, GA, $66 thousand). Both projects await approval from Georgia DOT.
Hooks remarked that he is finishing work on a Strategic Plan, which has come out of proposals made at Board and staff retreats. The written Plan will be submitted to the Board for comment and potential action. This Strategic Plan “falls into concert” with the Master Plan updating now taking place. The Strategic Plan will likely be more project-specific than the Master Plan.
Hooks returned to the subject of the plans for the Retail Center in the Beach Village. After terminating the contract with Winding Road Developers, the Park Authority decided to take on management of the Center’s construction in-house. The current plan is to build the Center in phases. R1 and R3 (the sectors closest to and farthest from the beach) would be tackled first. Possibilities of loan availabilities have been discussed with the Governor’s Office and the State Office of Planning and Budgets. The loan being considered would come from the One Georgia Authority ($4 million maximum, only partial coverage of costs; total cost estimate = $6 million). The possibility of bringing in a private partner is under consideration. Repayment of the 20-year loan would not be required until the Center reached a stable point with respect to revenue, or until the 10-year anniversary of the closing of the loan. A condition for closing of the Retail Center loan would be that the loan for financing of the Westin hotel is closed first. The Board approved a resolution to the effect that it wishes to enter into a loan agreement with One Georgia Authority. The Board also were handed a resolution prepared for the Georgia State Financial and Investment Commission, which must approve State Authorities’ debt agreements if they are for more than $1 million.
Hooks presented a lease assignment to the Board, transferring the Hyatt Place (mid-priced hotel to be constructed in the Beach Village) lease from Chatrala Group to Phelps Development LLC. Chatrala was to be the owner/operator of the Hyatt Place, but Phelps is now seeking a new owner/operator. Phelps will now submit a revised schedule for construction and opening of the Hyatt Place. The financing package that had been available to Chatrala may now be available to a new owner/operator. The Board approved the lease transfer.
Chairman Krueger expressed pleasure at the well-handled and enjoyable ribbon-cutting ceremonies officially opening the new Convention Center, and the dedication of the Ben Porter Salon. Krueger offered sincere thanks to Debbie Dlugolenski Alford, Director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget for her strong support for the projects that have been underway in Jekyll Island State Park. Buddy DeLoach proposed that a resolution of thanks be sent to Director Dlugolenski Alford, and the Board agreed.
Chairman Krueger adjourned the Committee Meeting at 10:50 AM.
Steven Y. Newell, Jekyll Island Citizens Association; produced after transcribing from a digital voice recorder