Public Comments Submitted to JIA about Linger Longer's Town Center Proposal
Comments Provided by Individuals at Villa Ospo, Jekyll Island Authority Office After Viewing the Development Plan Model Proposed by Linger Longer Fall 2007-Winter 2008
Prepared by Barbara McDonald, Ph.D. September 14, 2008
I received copies of the comments analyzed here after submitting a Georgia Open Records Request (GORA) to the Jekyll Island Authority (JIA) in August 2008. My first GORA request regarding these comments was for any summaries prepared by the JIA from these comments. In their written response to my request, JIA indicated that it had not summarized the comments, but had shared the comments with Linger Longer (I assume they made copies of the comments for Linger Longer). I then requested a hard copy of the comments, and it is the comments they copied and sent that are summarized below. Linger Longer Communities constructed a physical model of their proposed development of Jekyll Island, which was apparently on display at the Villa Ospo office of the JIA from late fall 2007 to late winter 2008. The JIA presumably invited individuals on Jekyll Island to view the model and make written comments. I do not know how the JIA notified individuals of this opportunity. Of the comments I summarized, dates written on some of the comments spanned from November 2007 to March 2008, although I do not know how long the model was available for public viewing and comment. The objective of this paper was to make and present an initial analysis of the comments to determine the percentage expressing support of or opposition to the proposed model and/or development, and to reveal, to the degree possible, the meanings expressed by these comments.
This analysis is based on qualitative methods involving the interpretation of “documents and material culture” (Hodder, 1994). Because I did not have involvement in or access to the methodology used to collect these comments, the analysis must necessarily suffer from a gap between what Hodder calls “text and context.” I used a coding process adapted from Constant Comparative Analysis (CCA) (Strauss, 1987; Strauss and Corbin, 1990), in which distinct elements of text (in this case, individual comments) are continually compared to identify categories of meaning. Categories of meaning are identified through a process of coding, in which terms and emergent meanings are identified, contrasted, and merged when possible. In CCA, the analytical process is iterative, and larger numbers of categories are continually combined (collapsed) until the researcher has identified the essence of the data’s meaning. In this analysis, I quantified the number of comments according to the final set of categories to provide an immediate understanding of the central meanings of the comments. I typed each of the comments verbatim into a word processing document. I placed a hard carriage return at the end of each comment to delineate individual comments. In some cases, the only way to ascertain when a new comment began was a change in the handwriting. I read over each of the comments a first time, coding in the margins and on a separate page to identify patterns and categories. From this initial reading and coding, I identified eight categories of comments. I then went back through each comment, placing it into one of the eight categories. While I was reading, I continued to make marginal notes and codes regarding emerging patterns that included writing style (such as the inclusion of exclamation points or triple underlining), average length of comment according to category, and the recurrence of words (such as “open beach front” or “ocean view.”). Following my assignment of each comment to a category, I further compared individual comments within categories and merged related categories. In some cases, the length and content of a comment made it difficult to assign it to just one category. In those cases, I made a judgment as to the primary message of the comment and used that primary message to categorize the comment.
The categories that emerged during my initial reading were: 1.Support for the Linger Longer proposed development and/or model 2. Somewhat supportive of the Linger Longer development model but with expressed reservations 3.Accepting a need for some upgrading of facilities, but opposed to this plan 4.Either neutral (not expressing support or opposition) or otherwise unable to ascertain support or opposition 5.Opposition to JIA/Linger Longer proposed development and/or model 6.Emphatic opposition to JIA/Linger Longer proposed development and/or model 7.Expressed primary concern about parking lots and beach access by vehicle 8.Other concerns expressed, such as affordability to average Georgians, environmental impact, etc.
Respondents expressing opposition (#5 and #6) sometimes mentioned JIA either in addition to or in place of Linger Longer. Support (#1 and #2) was generally expressed for the proposed plan and model, with no mention of JIA. In #7 and #8, concerns regarding the proposed plan and/or model were expressed but support or opposition was not explicit.
After placing all comments in one of the eight categories and continuing the comparative process, I collapsed the categories to the following five: 1.Support for the Linger Longer proposed development and/or model 2.Accepting a need for some facility upgrades but opposed to this plan and/or model 3.Neutral or unable to ascertain position 4.Opposed to the JIA/Linger Longer proposed development and/or model 5.Concerns regarding the proposed development and/or model expressed but no position expressed Finally, after further comparative analysis, I collapsed the categories to the following three: 1.Support for the Linger Longer proposed development and/or model 2.Neutral or unable to ascertain position (includes the comments expressing concerns but with no clear position) 3.Opposed to the JIA/Linger Longer proposed development and/or model The total number of comments analyzed was 272. The percentage breakdown by category of these comments was: 1.Support for proposed plan/model: 5.5 % 2.Neutral or unable to ascertain: 22 % 4.Opposed to proposed plan/model: 72.4 %
The total percentage shown above, 99.9%, is under 100% due to rounding.
In general, comments tended to be short in length. It should be noted that all of these comments were handwritten on paper forms that must have included a place for name, address, and email address. The copies I received contained only the handwritten comments. Examples of comments in support include “WOW!” “I think it is a great idea and plan!”“Great,” and “Impressive!” Although most of the comments made in opposition to the proposed plan/model were also brief (Examples: “Leave as is,” “How sad,” “Monopoly returns to Jekyll,” “Don’t do it!” “A disgrace!” “No way!” “A disaster for Jekyll,” and “Horrible idea”), some respondents wrote two or three sentences. For example, “Don’t ruin your beautiful Island like St. John’s County has done to our part of Florida. This is irreplaceable,” “The start of wrecking a great place!! If it’s not destroyed, I’ll be amazed,” and “Too much development - Too much environmental impact – trees; turtles; traffic. Too much power to one for-profit organization.” A few respondents wrote short paragraphs. For example, “Found this place in 1973 and have been coming here ever since. The original builders chose the back or West side of the island even though they had the money to build anywhere. Leave it to 20th century developers to cut the heart of the island out for money. Beachview Drive is among the most beautiful in the country. If anyone cares, try not to destroy that which cannot be replaced.” For those opposed to the proposed plan/model, a number of patterns emerged. First, Jekyll was often cited for its beauty and special character. For example,
“This proposal is completely out of character with what I’ve come to love about Jekyll.”
“This takes the SPECIAL out of J. I. and homogenizes it with the rest of the U. S.”
“Georgia is losing its Jewel! Pave paradise and put up a parking lot! Please no!!!”
“Don’t destroy the beauty of Jekyll.”
“Concerned this will spoil a beautiful place.”
“What a shame to ruin such a beautiful island. Developers, keep your hands off!”
“This is a crime to ruin this lovely place.”
There was also a pattern of those in opposition referring to the “St. Simonizing” of Jekyll:
“TRAGIC – Another St. Simons in miniature.”
“This turns our wonderful island and the seaside into Hilton Head. Leave our gorgeous retreat as it is.”
“This is Awful! Too Dense! Where is the clean H2O coming from? Where is the sewage going? Too much for such a fragile ecosystem! We can rename Beachview Drive “St. Simons Way.”
Concerns expressed by respondents included keeping the ocean view clear and accessible, keeping Jekyll affordable for average citizens, and not destroying Jekyll’s natural environment. For example:
“I am saddened to see the beach view covered by buildings. A State Park should not be a building project.”
“Should allow NO building on beach front. Will not return if model becomes a reality.”
"Do you make reservations to see the beach?”
“Will be too expensive for us.”
“Don’t forget this is a State Park – for the people rich and poor of Georgia. Rooms are expensive.”
“I hope this project never gets built. You will destroy many habitats, wildlife and human.”
“Of course the impact of the buildings and thousands of people will have a detrimental impact on wildlife – and will erase completely the charm of this Island. There are scads of places up and down the Atlantic coast [with] this type of development – there is only one Jekyll Island Park for the middle income visitor. I wouldn’t come to Jekyll if this proposal goes through.”
Many of the comments in opposition to the proposed plan/model were punctuated by multiple exclamation points and triple underlines. For example, “This makes me sick to my stomach,” “What a horror!” “Tragic! Tragic! Tragic!!! Please don’t let it happen!!” “This is obscene!” “This is an outrage! It is an obscene destruction of natural beauty!” “This is a State PARK! Leave it unique.” “DO NOT CHANGE!!” Many of the supportive comments were also punctuated by exclamation points. For example, “Nice concept!” “Fantastic! Awesome!” and “We like it!” Examples of comments expressing concerns but no position:
“Are all the condos necessary?”
“Will the average Georgian be able to afford?”
“Concerned about all of the condos (too many); height of buildings; public parking for beach.”
“Georgia residents should have a discount on parking fee. This is done at other State Parks. Can Linger Longer help?”
Examples of neutral comments and those with no clearly stated position:
“We must remember that, in the end, we will be defined not only by what we create, but what we refuse to destroy! It will be so final! Get on with building the project!”
“Hope it works out well for all.”
The majority of comments made (72.4 %) were opposed to the plan/model. Of these, concern for the loss of Jekyll’s unique character, charm, and beauty were paramount, as was concern for loss of access and affordability for average citizens. Many expressed concern for wildlife, with sea turtles being mentioned specifically. One comment, for example, simply stated “What about me?” and included a drawing of a sea turtle. A minority of comments expressed support for the plan/model (5.5 %). From this analysis, it is clear that a large majority (over 7 out of every 10) of the comments received at Villa Ospo between November 2007 and March 2008 expressed opposition to the Jekyll Island plan/model as it was presented at Villa Ospo. Of these, most of the comments expressed emphatic opposition to the proposed plan/model. Of those opposed to the plan/model, 13 % also recognized the need for Island upgrades. They felt, however, that the proposed plan/model was too much. For example, “If this model happens - - - Jekyll Island will lose what people love - its naturalness. I am for upgrading - but not this.” Of the 22 % not expressing a position either in support of or opposed, most identified a variety of concerns or questions regarding the proposed development. While these comments do not provide information about support or opposition, the concerns provide important information that can be used by the JIA to better involve Georgians and others interested in the future of Jekyll Island. Of the concerns expressed, 2/3 of the respondents specifically mentioned the need to keep the beach open, both for the ocean view and for public access, including public parking close to the beach. Other concerns included keeping the Island affordable for average citizens, and taking care not to damage the natural environment. This analysis of comments received at Villa Ospo faced a number of limitations. First, I do not have any way of knowing the demographics or other characteristics of the individuals who offered these comments. I have no knowledge of the method used to involve participants, present the model, or solicit comments. The comments analyzed were acquired via a GORA request. Therefore, I assume I have a copy of all the comments received and that this analysis accurately reflects the nature of all comments received by the JIA during this period regarding the Linger Longer proposal.
Hodder, I. (1994). “The interpretation of documents and material culture,” In Denzin, N. K. And Lincoln, Y. S., Eds., Handbook of qualitative research, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, pp. 393-402.
Strauss, A. L. (1987). Qualitative analysis for social scientists. Melbourne, Australia: Cambridge University Press.
Strauss, A. L. and Corbin, J. (1990). Basics of qualitative research: Grounded theory procedures and techniques. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.