Record of the Jekyll Island State Park Authority (JISPA) Board Meeting of 8 February 2009, in the Convention Center, as recorded for JICA
(Note: IPJI has placed some text in "bold" type for emphasis and has clarified some statements)
Chairman Bob Krueger brought the meeting to order at 9:39 AM. Board members present were Buddy DeLoach, Mike Hodges, Sybil Lynn, and Ben Porter. Steve Croy, Becky Kelley, Sam Kellett, Tom Lewis, legal counsel George Zier, and DNR Commissioner Chris Clark were on a conference telephone line. Park Authority Executive Director Jones Hooks and legal counsel Brooks Stillwell were also present. The audience numbered about 45 persons. Krueger announced that the first round of bond issuance ($25 million) for support of the Park’s revitalization has occurred. The interest rate will be 3.89% (the next best rate was 4.5%). Application has already been made to begin drawing on the bond proceeds. The low interest rate which was achieved will lower yearly interest payments by about $400,000. Krueger also reported that the Jekyll Advisory Forum had had its first meeting, which went very well. Good input was received from many participants, including conservation-oriented persons.
CONSERVATION & PRESERVATION
Chairman Ben Porter referred to the prepared report that each Board member had at her/his place, and noted that Museum Director John Hunter would answer any questions that Board members had for him. Hearing no questions from the Board or the audience, Porter closed his session.
Chairman Mike Hodges announced total Park revenues for the month of January of $839,400, $96,000 below budget. Only the Greeting Station (with its new gate arm) and the miniature golf produced more revenue than had been expected. At the 7-month point in the fiscal year, the Park is $718,000 (7%) under budget. Expenditures for January were $129,000 under budget, due to cost-cutting measures. Operating cash flow for January was negative $266,000, but at the 7-month point in the fiscal year, cash flow is positive $78,000 (some $700,000 less than had been expected). Accounting Director Marjorie Johnson added that her department expects expenses to be less than revenues for the remainder of the fiscal year. She also pointed out that the Museum experienced revenues higher than budgeted for January.
Chairman Hodges reported that staff is recommending approval of a lease to Verizon for the proposed new cellphone tower (behind the Fire Station). The initial term of the lease would be five years, with five 5-year renewal options. Verizon will build and maintain the tower, and pay $30,000 lease fee per year, with 5-year inflation adjustments. Verizon will put up a $15,000 security deposit, and take care of general liability insurance. Director Hooks added that other carriers than Verizon (including JISPA) will be able to use the Verizon tower. The tower should markedly improve cellphone service in the Park. The lease was approved by the Finance Committee.
Chairman Hodges brought up the subject of an amendment to the Project Development Agreement and the lease for the Jekyll Oceanfront Resort. The 2007 Agreement dealt with redevelopment of the northern part of the Oceanfront leasehold into renovated condominium units, and the southern part into new hotel condominium units. The bottom line was that the original plan with its deadlines could not be accommodated, due to the national economic slump. Redating the lease and the Agreement was approved by the Finance Committee.
Mark Lichtenstein asked about the date on which the Verizon Tower would be functioning? Answer: since this is a stick tower, relatively easy to construct, it should be functioning in about six months. Marjorie Johnson interjected that Verizon has projected a completion date of about six weeks from completion of signing of the lease.
Frank Mirasola requested that complete budget sheets be offered to the public, rather than just oral reporting of figures. Chairman Krueger explained that early meetings (in the month) like the current one make it difficult to have completed budget sheets at the meeting, but these sheets can always be obtained from Marjorie Johnson.
Norman Haft wondered about the sufficiency of the liability insurance that will be obtained for the Verizon tower? Answer: insurance will be in the amount of $4 million.
Chairman Krueger notified the audience that the Finance Committee would meet again later that day (1:00 PM, Room 9), to review the initial, preliminary report of the Bleakly Advisory Group regarding the potential fate of the residential leases in the Park. The meeting was to be open to the public, but no questions or comments would be taken from the public (opportunities for discussion and input would come at a later date).
Chairman Croy reported talking with Speaker Richardson, Majority Leader Keen, and Lt. Governor Cagle among others in the legislative leadership, keeping them informed about what is going on on Jekyll. They are pleased and excited with the process being made, and the bond sale. He had spoken with the Governor’s Office that morning, and “all’s good there”. They urged Croy to “get this thing rollin’”. Croy also announced that the Legislature will go to a Tue/Wed/Thurs schedule, which will lengthen the session, perhaps running until the first part of June.
Marketing Director Eric Garvey reported that he had recently made an updating presentation regarding revitalization of the Park to the State Institutions and Properties Committee in Atlanta. He felt that the presentation had gone fairly well, and he did get some positive feedback from some SIPC members. He also attended the Georgia Tourism Foundation meetings in Atlanta, and had a meeting with the Park’s rebranding partner, Grey Atlanta. Grey will do some consumer testing, and then present results to the Marketing Committee. Video testimonials have been prepared with patrons of the Park’s golf courses, and these will now be used at golf shows to demonstrate the excellence of the Park’s golfing venues for winter golf. The videos are posted on the Park’s website (http://www.jekyllisland.com/activities/golf.asp). Garvey thanked the Park residents and visitors who participated in the videos, and he thanked pro-shop employee Brian Powers who attended some of the golf shows in the northeast as the Park’s representative. On 24 January, an article appeared in USA Today about meeting organizers becoming more budget conscious, and gave Jekyll Island State Park (with photos) as an inexpensive but enjoyable option. Also, CNN has recently visited the Georgia Sea Turtle Center preparing a piece on the Center’s work toward protection of the extinction-threatened loggerhead sea turtle. Garvey looked forward to a busy spring at the Park’s hotels, and the week’s Kids’ Golf event should kick it off (405 of the world’s best young golfers will participate). The March frisbee event (Ultimate College Tournament) at the Soccer Fields will follow the Kids’ Golf, and at the end of March, the Collegiate Golf Invitational will be held.
Nancy Reed thanked Garvey for reinstating the Easter Festival (with an egg hunt). Garvey thanked Reed for her input.
Mindy Egan commended Garvey for his work bringing young people to the Park for special events. She also inquired about the nature of the new “brand” that Grey Atlanta is developing for the Park? Garvey requested that Egan wait just a little while – he will be presenting the new “brand” information to the Board in March.
Larry Waldhauer asked about special rates about which he had heard, for golf outings at Great Dunes Course – are they still in effect? Answer: the same low rates used in December will continue in effect. Harry Kicklighter agreed to advertise the rates more widely.
PUBLIC/PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP COMMITTEE
Chairman Krueger announced that Linger Longer Jekyll will present a report to the Board at its March meeting.
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chairman Krueger called upon Gary Mongeon of Bleakly Advisory Group to present task 6 of his Visitation Analysis Study. Mongeon described this portion of the Visitation Study as the final one, in which the projected development density for Jekyll Island State Park is related to comparable destinations in the southeastern USA. In October, Bleakly had concluded that the Park needed about 2.65 million visitors per year to achieve financial sustainability. To draw this many visitors, 4,100 accommodation units and 112,000 square feet of commercial space would be needed. The currently planned developments for rebuilt and new hotels and condominiums will result in fulfillment of about 90% of Bleakly’s projected real-estate-development needs for the Park. In order to avoid an expensive, detailed environmental analysis, Bleakly chose to compare the projected developmental density for the Park in 2023 to existing conditions at other vacation destinations, using 2000 census data. Mongeon noted that 1000 hotel units in one location, if not well designed and planned, might look unacceptable, only due to the lack of proper designing. In the peak accommodation-density years of the 1990s, Jekyll Island State Park had about 1,500 lodging rooms, 800 residences, and 87,000 square feet of commercial space. Compare the projected need, for 2023, of 2,500 lodging spaces (including campsites), 1,300 residential units, and 112,000 square feet of commercial space. Nine barrier islands or other coastal vacation destinations were chosen for comparison to Jekyll Island State Park (Tybee Island, St. Simons Island, St. George Island, FL, Santa Rosa Island [Pensacola Beach], FL, Captiva/Sanibel Island, FL, Fripp Island, SC, Kiawah Island, SC, Pawley’s Island, SC, and Ocean Isle Beach, NC). Comparability depended upon the sites being accessible by car, having few access routes, having both residential development and commercial accommodations, being relatively small in terms of land area, being recognized by the Census Bureau as distinct places (so that census data, including land area, could be used to compare sites), being close to state or national parks or historic landmarks, and finally, not having been heavily commercially developed (e.g., Myrtle Beach). Comparisons were made of residential and seasonal populations for each location, using Census Bureau values for land area. The Bleakly report of the locational comparisons is available at http://www.jekyllislandauthority.org/Visitation_Analysis_Business_Plan_Comparable_Destinations.pdf.
Basic conclusions of the report are that in 2023, Jekyll Island State Park will have densities of accommodations and visitors that will not be as high as the high portion of those densities at the compared vacation destinations. [NB: a problem with the density calculations of Bleakly is that Census Bureau values for land area of Jekyll Island were used, and this estimate of land area included all of the saltmarsh west of the Island, resulting in an estimate of more than 9,000 acres, when the true land acreage is on the order of 4,000 acres, and the portion that will be legally allowed to contain development is only 35% of the 4,000-some acres. When corrected for this exaggeration of developable acreage, the density of lodging and housing units in the developed portion of Jekyll Island State Park in 2023 comes out as the highest of the 10 vacation destinations – see Factor 3 graph in the report.]
Chairman Krueger requested of the Board that they each review the report carefully, and provide comments to Mongeon and to the other Board members by the end of the week.
Mike Hodges asked for clarification – do the report’s figures for current lodging units include the projects now on the drawing board? Answer: the total projected units of 4,100 for 2023 do include these projects.
Norman Haft observed that none of the nine vacation destinations chosen by the Bleakly Advisory Group are truly comparable to Jekyll Island State Park. None of the other sites have anything like the legal mandate to preserve 65% of Jekyll Island’s acreage. From what he had heard that morning, Haft found the report a waste of time. Chairman Krueger recommended that Haft take up this issue with Director Hooks.
Larry Waldhauer inquired whether there has been any study of the ability of Jekyll Island Causeway to bear the projected amount of traffic? Answer: we have a report on that topic (contact Director Hooks for a copy), and there was no problem found with the ability of the causeway to sustain the projected level of traffic.
David Egan asked Gary Mongeon whether any of the nine comparative vacation destinations had extensive contiguous marshlands like those adjacent to Jekyll Island? (The question occurred to Egan because of the fact that Mongeon had shown an acreage for Jekyll Island of some 9,000 acres, much larger than the true land mass as given in the Park’s Master Plan. Egan noted that exaggerating the size of the land mass would cause development-density estimates to be artificially low.) Answer: some sites had marsh, some did not. Egan went on to note that Jekyll Island State Park’s legally developable acreage is about 1,300 acres, which seemed to Egan to be the acreage figure that should have been used to project development density. Chairman Krueger interjected that the Census Bureau figures were used in order to find a common reference point for all ten sites, and that the Bleakly projections are an overall statement. Egan concluded by noting that the Georgia DOT had estimated that the Jekyll Causeway could sustain traffic flow of about 18,000 – 21,000 vehicles per day.
Mindy Egan wondered what Bleakly would have done had his group decided to do an environmental-impact analysis alongside their density projections? Answer: a scope of work would have to be developed to make that determination. Egan persisted: if you had had the funds to do an environmental-impact analysis, what sort of work would you have done? Answer: I haven’t given that question any thought. An environmental consulting company would have had to do that work.
Nancy Reed remarked that endangered species might well be negatively impacted by increased density in Jekyll Island State Park. Chairman Krueger agreed, and stated that the Board would be mindful of this possibility going forward.
Steve Newell inquired about public accessibility of the Bleakly report on comparative development density? Would it be available on the internet? Answer: yes.
David Kyler (Center for a Sustainable Coast) commented that the Bleakly Group had treated the 65/35 split in the Park cavalierly. He noted that the law intended for the Park to contain at least three times as much open space as in the nine “comparable” sites. He was shocked to see the Bleakly projection for Jekyll of the most accommodation units on the least amount of developable land of any of the ten sites compared in Bleakly’s report. Kyler projected that this development density might well have a negative effect upon visitor experience. Chairman Krueger asserted that Kyler was overlooking that fact that the number of accommodation units on the nine comparable sites was not extrapolated, but is the current number, so the projected number for Jekyll in 2023 might not be so much higher given that there might be increases at the other sites by 2023. Kyler added the point that Jekyll Island State Park has a richness of diversity of habitat and species (including federally-listed threatened and endangered species) in its uncompromised natural areas that none of the other “comparable” sites has, so increased density of development has more potential to do harm to the natural environment than it does at the other nine sites.
Mindy Egan reminded the audience that the Park’s Museum Director and Conservation Manager were asked by the Authority Board Chairman in September, 2007, to frame the projection of development density by the Bleakly Group by defining the limits of acceptable change. Egan wondered why the limits of acceptable change had not been even mentioned by Gary Mongeon in his presentation? Answer: we can’t answer your question at this point, but we’ll be happy to take a look at it, and get back to you. Egan responded that a study of limits of acceptable change is what should have been done, if the projection of development density had been performed according to standards of experts in public-land planning. Egan pointed to the Authority’s own visitor survey conducted in 2006 that speaks to the question of impact of increased development density upon visitor experience, that could have been factored into the Bleakly analysis. She requested that the Authority Board call upon the Bleakly Group to consider the limits of acceptable change and revise its report accordingly.
Executive Director Hooks reported that the Authority is receiving a good response to its call for formation of several volunteer committees to assist with Park operations (the committee opportunities are advertised on the Authority website; e.g. Events Committee, Cost-Savings Committee).
Hooks commended Eric Garvey on his taped golf testimonials, and suggested that audience members view the testimonials on the marketing website (see above, under Marketing Committee).
Hooks noted that Conservation Manager Christa Frangiamore and Landscape Superintendent Cliff Gawron were on Blackbeard Island that day, participating in a barrier-island fire-management workshop.
Hooks announced that the Jekyll Island Foundation will sponsor an event on March 21 at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, highlighting the work of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. Atlanta corporations that have supported the Sea Turtle Center will be recognized, and the relationship between the Aquarium and the Center will be highlighted. Center Director Terry Norton announced that the Center has just received a grant to support research into loggerhead nutrition, with the goal of finding optimal recipes for loggerhead gruel to be used in nursing injured turtles. Monies were also donated for purchase of a new beach vehicle and a GIS mapping program for use in the monitoring of loggerhead nesting in the Park.
Hooks announced that Marketing officials Eric Garvey and Kevin Udell will be on the road soon, traveling to other convention centers in Georgia and South Carolina, gathering information on details of their operations, for comparison to the proposed new Jekyll Island State Park Convention Center.
Chairman Krueger reiterated his pleasure with the outcome of the first session of the Jekyll Island Advisory Forum. He had received many good suggestions that he plans to try to incorporate into the planning for revitalization of Jekyll Island State Park. He also reiterated pleasure at seeing the $25 million bond sale take place, considering what it means to the Park going forward.
Krueger announced that because of defaults by Oceanside Crow Holdings, Jekyll Crow Replacement Hotel One, and 150 Beachview Holdings, Trammell Crow, acting through Trammell Crow Acquisitions, will perform an assignment of the defaulted mortgages (similar to foreclosure) that they held for the leaseholds of the Oceanside Inn, the Buccaneer Hotel, and the Georgia Coast Inn. The new holding company, under Trammell Crow, will be Jekyll Leaseholding LLC. Trammell Crow will now pay all outstanding amounts owed to the Park Authority by each of these three leaseholds. Trammell Crow has assured the Authority that the hotels planned for these sites will be constructed. The bottom line: Trammell Crow has taken over the interests of Earl and Rick Patton at these three sites, but still is owed the balances of the previous mortgages.
Frank Mirasola reminded audience about the Tidelands Art Sale (Seventh Annual, Art Inspired by Nature), to be held 15 February. About 35 craftspeople will be selling their wares. The proceeds of the sale go toward maintaining/improving the educational exhibits at Tidelands Nature Center.
Pat Overholt observed that Bleakly’s projected development densities might not ever come to pass, because of the economic slump currently in effect in the USA. She also remarked that much of the Park’s operations depend on the high degree of volunteerism by the Park’s year-round and seasonal residents. Chairman Krueger noted that at the first meeting of the Jekyll Advisory Forum, the importance of the Park’s volunteers was recognized. Director Hooks added that his new program seeking volunteers for Park committees (see above, Director’s Update) is a clear recognition of the value of the Park-residents’ volunteerism. Overholt observed that it would be nice if Authority Board members would attend Park events such as the very well attended Arts Association reception opening the current show at Goodyear Cottage (Nan Phillips [pottery] and Linda Wunder [painting]).
Tise Eyler reminded the Board and the audience of the February winter-seminar series at the Jekyll Presbyterian Church (1st to 3rd Wednesdays in February, 10 -11:30 AM).
Mary Ann Cernak observed that (prohibitory signs notwithstanding), more and more visitors are setting up chairs and walking within the dunes. Since we are planning substantial increases in Park visitation, we need to put in place some sort of enforcement of our prohibition of trampling the dune areas. Chairman Krueger requested that issues of this nature be funneled back to Director Hooks’ office.
Onnalee Willnow commented that Gary Mongeon had projected a substantial decrease in permanent residency in Jekyll Island State Park. She has also seen an increase in purchase of homes in the Park by investors intending to rent the homes to vacationers, rather than families intending to reside in the Park. She lamented this trend, due to its clear, probable negative effect upon Park volunteerism.
Kevin Runner (Jekyll Ocean Oaks, Club Hotel operators) asked that the residents (whom he loves) not take his comment the wrong way, but he feels that the most seriously endangered species in the Park is the overnight visitor (20 years ago, there were 50,000 more room nights taken annually than are taken now – 100,000 fewer overnight visitors are now coming to the Park, and things seemed to be going well when the Park had this many more visitors staying overnight back then).
Ben Porter asserted that nobody on the Authority Board is looking for growth for growth’s sake. He expressed disappointment at the trend toward fewer permanent residents in the Park, and hoped that this trend is an illusion. He felt that a lot of the stability of the Park results from the volunteerism by residents, and only residents who live in the Park and love it will contribute the type of volunteerism needed. He felt that the increased accommodation units will be serving the 9 million owners (Georgia’s citizens) of the Park, and the economic survival of the Park depends upon the income from the increased accommodation availability. Chairman Krueger added that the Authority Board’s objective is not to produce another Hilton Head or Myrtle Beach, and adjourned the Committee Session at 11:20 AM.
Steven Y. Newell, Secretary, Jekyll Island Citizens Association