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    Jekyll authority backs out of Linger Longer development deal

     

    The Jekyll Island Authority is dropping out of a controversial beachfront development deal because its private partner could no longer guarantee a timeline for completion, officials said today.

    Since October, the authority and Atlanta-based Linger Longer LLC had been renegotiating timing and financial terms of the package. The parties inked a deal in December 2008 calling for construction of two hotels, lofts and time-share units, and up to 30,000 square feet of retail space on the state-owned barrier island.

    Both parties mutually agreed to walk away from the deal, authority spokesman Eric Garvey said today. The chief sticking point: The authority still wanted a firm timeline for completion of each component, and Linger Longer couldn’t agree to that.

    In particular, Linger Longer was unwilling to commit to 2012 completion of two hotels and retail space in the $170 million Beach Village. Working with a different developer, the authority broke ground yesterday on the Great Dunes park component of the village, which will also include a renovated and expanded convention center.

    Critics had accused the authority of giving Linger Longer rights to build on prime beachfront property for next to nothing. They also questioned whether Linger Longer’s political connections had influenced the authority’s handling of the deal. Mercer and Jamie Reynolds, owners of Linger Longer’s parent company, were major fundraisers for President George W. Bush, U.S. Sen. John McCain and a number of Republican candidates in Georgia.

    State Sen. Jeff Chapman and former Adjutant General David Poythress — both candidates for governor in 2010 — had called on the authority to back out of the Linger Long deal as a financial disaster for Georgia taxpayers. Critics, meanwhile, pointed out that Jamie Reynolds is campaign finance chairman for another gubernatorial candidate, former state Sen. Eric Johnson of Savannah.

    Gov. Sonny Perdue, who once named Jamie Reynolds to the state Board of Natural Resources, was informed of the situation yesterday after he flew down for the Beach Village groundbreaking. Garvey said there was “no political influence” on the decision to drop the partnership.

    The authority now will seek individual development partners for different pieces of the island revitalization plan. “Progress is unaffected by this announcement,” Garvey said. “This does not in any way mean that the project is dead.”

    But the time-share units may be on life support for a while, due to the recession and a soft market for vacation properties. Garvey said it was always understood that the timing of the “vacation-ownership” development was subject to change.

    The authority’s board in October signed off on terms of a sweeter financial deal for Linger Longer. Under the amended agreement, the company could have collected more than twice as much in program management fees and deferred most of the $3.5 million in partnership payments it owed the authority.

    With today’s announcement, at least for now, Linger Longer collects nothing.

    “No money has exchanged hands between Linger Longer and the Jekyll Island Authority,” he said. “They have participated in some planning work … but because there was no final contract, there was no money exchanged.”

     

    Here is today’s news release from the Jekyll Island Authority:


    Jekyll Island Authority and Linger Longer Communities

    agree to suspend partnering agreement

     

    The Jekyll Island Authority announced today that by mutual consent they have suspended contract deliberations with Linger Longer Communities LLC on a series of private partnering agreements. The partnering agreements were intended to contractually reflect the Revitalization Partnering Agreement (RPA) approved approximately one year ago. The RPA followed the selection of Linger Longer Communities as the successful proposer in a public Request for Proposals (RFP) back in 2007.

    While contract negotiations with Linger Longer on specific terms have been ongoing for the past year, the Jekyll Island Authority has independently progressed with plans on a new beach village. A cohesive project design team is in place and work will continue on the new beach park, convention center as well as road and utility work. Focus will now shift to identifying appropriate developers that can accomplish the individual hotel and retail village components.

    Robert W. Krueger, Jekyll Island Authority Board Chairman, recognized the efforts of Linger Longer Communities and Jekyll Island Authority representatives to achieve a goal which was unachievable in today’s marketplace.  “I want especially to thank Linger Longer representatives for their interest in Jekyll Island and their support throughout this difficult process.  We acknowledge the hard work and hours of due diligence spent by both parties, and I am confident Linger Longer and the Reynolds Group will continue to be an outstanding leader in the hospitality industry.  While a difficult decision, in the end it was important to make a decision in the best interest of Jekyll Island and the citizens of the State of Georgia.”

    “The economy has created much uncertainty,” stated Jones Hooks, Executive Director with the Jekyll Island Authority. “In my 30 plus years in community and economic development I have not seen things so bad.”

    To complete the beach village and accomplish the goals established for the project, the Jekyll Island Authority will move forward with current plans and each private-sector opportunity will be matched with a firm best suited to successfully complete it. By breaking the project up among several developers, financing should be more obtainable. This approach also puts the Jekyll Island Authority in control over timing.

    “We will have retail operations in temporary facilities starting in the third quarter, and we must show a definite timeline,” continued Hooks. “We also must bring new hotel lodging units on line as soon as the new convention center is ready. These and other circumstances have dictated this decision.”

    The amount of private-sector investment is expected to be at least if not more than the $120 million. Each private-sector component — two hotels, 30,000 sq. ft. of retail with condominium lofts and vacation ownership units — will represent a unique hospitality investment opportunity.

    The Jekyll Island Authority officially broke ground on the beach village project on Monday, December 7th with a ceremony attended by Governor Perdue. Construction is now underway for the new 20-acre Great Dunes Park which along with a new 78,000 sq. ft. convention center will be key integrated public components of the beach village project. Fifty million dollars in public bonds have already been secured and set aside to fund the state-owned portion of the project.

    “It is not unusual at all for public investment to be used to stimulate private investment,” stated Hooks. “We are completely confident that we can secure the private development investment needed, and that this project will come together as highly successful and highly profitable for the businesses involved.”

    The design team that will continue working on the project includes the well- regarded architecture and engineering firm HHCP from Maitland, Florida. Thomas and Hutton are providing on-going engineering work, and landscape architect Glatting Jackson Kerchler Anglin. Southern Wilderness of Edison, Georgia has been selected as the contractor for the initial phase of Great Dunes Park. The groundbreaking celebration for the public Great Dunes Park and the beach village project which occurred yesterday is unrelated and not affected by this announcement.

    The Jekyll Island Authority Board is expected to take formal action on the RPA at its regular monthly meeting on December 14th.

     

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    36 Responses to “Jekyll authority backs out of Linger Longer development deal”

    1. Georgia Girl says:

      Excellent article on this new development in a long, rather sordid saga of power, money, and influence. Keep up the good work.

    2. Bill Bozarth says:

      Common Cause stood with the opponents of the extensive development of Jekyll as pushed by the JIA board, and we salute the decision to back off from the aggressive plans in the Linger Longer partnership. We can revitalize Jekyll Island and maintain its special quality as a resort for all the people of the state without selling out to private partners. We hope this decision puts to rest the notion that “what’s good for developers of oceanfront property is good for Georgia.” To paraphrase Churchill’s characterization of Americans, the Jekyll Island Authority is finally dong the right thing, after first exhausting every other possibility. Kudos to Dave & Mindy Egan, Jeff Chapman, Ed Boshears, and the scores of others who worked so hard to bring about this result.

    3. David Egan says:

      Now that the Jekyll Island Authority-Linger Longer Communities development partnership has been dissolved, there is a window of opportunity for the JIA board to amend its approach to the renovation of Jekyll Island State Park and get things right this time. To date, the JIA board has cranked out redevelopment plans largely crafted in a vacuum and shaped by developers who are often more interested in building high-profit condos and time-shares than they are in the state park’s welfare. As a result, those plans have drawn statewide criticism, and Jekyll Island’s revitalization has been delayed as plans proven to be unpopular have ended up being revised or scrapped.

      Take, for example, the controversial oceanfront time-share project proposed by Linger Longer. That project was smiled upon by the JIA board despite the fact that statewide surveys of more than 10,000 Jekyll visitors showed nearly unanimous opposition to time-share and/or condominium construction along Jekyll’s currently unobstructed beachfront land. Even the JIA’s own 2006 Guest Survey showed that only 4 percent of the more than 2,600 visitors surveyed favored the construction of more condos and private residences on the island. Even though Linger Longer has now bowed out of the picture, the time-share project is still on the table, tainting an otherwise reasonably popular town center project.

      For the sake of a smooth transition to a renovated Jekyll Island, the JIA board should conduct an extensive survey to determine what the citizen-owners of the state park envision for a revitalized Jekyll. Surveying of this type is a vital part of public land planning, as practiced by professionals across the country and within the National Park Service, but for the JIA board public input gathered this way is apparently an alien concept.

      Making far-reaching plans for the Jekyll Island State Park’s future without sufficient understanding of what its customer base thinks is bad public policy and a recipe for failure. That pattern of behavior cannot persist if Jekyll’s renovation is to take place in a timely fashion and be applauded by Jekyll’s visitors, who are, after all, the economic engine for the island.

    4. Eric Garvey says:

      Hey Jim, a point of clarification. It is accurate that no money has changed hands between the JIA and Linger Longer Communities. I am not is a position to declare what will or will not happen among the parties. So your paragraph copied below is a misstatement:

      “With today’s announcement, Linger Longer collects nothing, Garvey said.”

      I apologize if I inferred that, and I appreciate it if you will clarify. Thanks for your interest!

      -Eric Garvey
      egarvey@jekyllisland.com

    5. Warnin says:

      OK, this is great! Now all of you critics who “knew” there was a better way can pool your money and get this project going. What’s that? You say you don’t have any money! You can’t get a loan! Even if you could, you wouldn’t, because there is nothing to do on Jekyll and no one will come and pay enough for a hotel room for you to make a profit. Oh, now I understand, you didn’t know what you were talking about, but you jumped on the bandwagon because you knew everything was crooked and just the fat cats would get something out of this. Well guess what, now nobody is going to get anything out of this but the bunch of welfare birds who live on Jekyll. I would invite the business school at the University of Georgia to study this situation and see if they can find a case history that is anymore screwed up. The island is run by an authority which has proved itself to be the most incompetent governmental entity since the inception of government itself. Their mandate is to maintain a facility that can be enjoyed by the people of Georgia, but they insist on dong away with picnic areas, camping areas or anything that would allow the residents of our state to enjoy Jeykll. They prohibit free enterprise by auctioning exclusive rights to sell groceries, operate a pharmacy, operate a liquor store, etc. You can’t even buy a Big Mac on Jekyll. The first thing that has to go is the authority! You get rid of them and you can move forward with a viable development plan. And, you would also make a great deal of progress by buying the residents out and shiping the lot of them out of state!

    6. Georgia Girl says:

      Re: Warnin’s “There’s nothing to do on Jekyll….”:

      Here are a few suggestions:

      * enjoy dinner at the JI Club dining room while watching the sun set
      * sit on the deck at the marina and enjoy the Rah Bar’s boiled shrimp
      and have a beer
      * tour the Sea Turtle Center
      * take a long walk on the beach
      * bike around the island
      * bird watch on the South End

      I could go on, but you get the idea…..Let’s all take a deep breath here and see this turn of events as a chance for the JIA to get right the necessary revitalization of amenities, though I do agree that some people other than real estate developers on the board might be a good thing.

    7. JC says:

      I am glad you can’t buy a Big Mac on Jekyll.
      And may it remain so forever more.

    8. Loves Jekyll says:

      Thanks for a great article!

      How wonderful that JIA’s contract with LLC has been nullified. It was the most misguided and profit-oriented development plan that would have destroyed the people’s state park and Georgia’s jewel. But thanks to Senator Chapman, General Poythress, IPJI, and thousands of outspoken Georgians and visitors, this horrendous deal is finally cancelled.

      But the next thing we need to do is to ensure that JIA does not pursue the same level of overall planned development with a set of new developers.

      The condos included in the LLC deal should definitely be scrapped. But that is not all. With the new hotels already under way and a recently renewed convention center that fits perfectly with the topography of the island, there is absolutely no need for any of the proposed development, and irreparable harm will result from it.

      The Bleakley report that was the basis for this huge planned development should be immediately discarded for many erroneous representations. Development at the level recommended by Bleakley, envisioned in the JIA/LLC deal, and backed by Perdue, would change this beautiful, natural treasure that Jekyll Island is into a cookie cutter beach resort. There are many beach resorts already for people to go to if that is what they seek — one more such is not needed, especially when it means the destruction of something so beautiful and unique as Jekyll Island

      We need to protect this fragile barrier island, its peace and tranquility, and its magical wildlife, all of which is why thousands of visitors come to Jekyll Island.

      Let us do all we can to stop the JIA and Perdue from pursuing unnecessary development on Jekyll Island. It would destroy what is so unique about this amazing state park – it would put an end to what thousands of visitors and the people of Georgia love about Jekyll Island, and have voiced repeatedly to the JIA for the past several years.

      Let us keep working to protect Georgia’s jewel!

    9. Leon Galis says:

      If a well-heeled outfit like Linger Longer didn’t have the stomach for this project in the current economic environment, and other major players like Trammell Crow are dragging their feet for the same reason, what makes the Jekyll Island Authority think that smaller operators are going to be willing to take up the slack left by the big guys? This project was conceived from the outset in the midst of an insanely inflated real estate bubble and that mind set informed all the planning that the Authority has done up to this point. Simple prudence would seem to dictate that the Authority adjust its vision for Jekyll Island’s revitalization and work out a new scheme that is more in keeping with the island’s status as a state park and carries modest enough market risk to motivate smaller developers to participate in the effort. As coastal condo and fractional ownership projects crash and burn all over the place, with the worst perhaps yet to come, I can’t imagine that any development company in its right mind, large or small, is going to be eager to plunge into that market with a project that can be comopleted by 2012. It’s time for everybody, not excepting Governor Perdue, to take a time out and regroup. The Jekyll Island Authority very nearly screwed this deal up once and was saved from itself only by the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. We can only hope that the Authority has learned enough from this experience not to screw it up again.

    10. Celeste says:

      If there is a silver lining to the economic recession and the collapse of the real estate market, it’s the dissolution of the JIA/Linger Longer partnership. Now maybe the Authority can revise its vision for Jekyll Island’s revitalization and plan something more in keeping with the island’s status as a state park.

    11. Karen Brown says:

      This is good news–had stayed away from Jekyll for 3 years, now because of the JIA’s big ideas for developing the last natural island along the Atlantic coast. In fact, have been going to Fripp Island, South Carolina, to be near Hunting Island State Park there.

      There is a big tourist population interested in a place where there is “nothing to do” but walk on the beach, bike, look at great birdlife, eat good seafood. The JIA would be advised to advertise that instead of changing things. The people we met at Jekyll were surprised that they’d been dropped into a paradise they didn’t know about. Kayakers abound–try to get a good kayaking touring company there. The ones on St. Simons take for the most part very short, beginner trips. Offer occasional good long ones, but there is a lot of room for something in between.

      Best wishes, JIA! You can get it right, this time.

    12. sue gertis says:

      The Jekyll Island Authority gets a 2nd chance to do the right thing. They need to stop thinking of Jekyll Island as an “economic engine”, to quote the former project manager of Linger Longer and start thinking of Jekyll as a viable, self-supporting vacation destination for families and ordinary folk. This is what Jekyll Island State Park(the whole island) was intended to be and what the Jekyll Island Authority is commissioned by the PEOPLE of Georgia to oversee. Jekyll Island Authority please, do the right thing this time.

    13. Mary K Eargle says:

      It is wonderful that Linger Longer has back out with their plans for development on Jekyll Island. They had no business there with the intent to tarnish the environment by ith developing the island. the only thing they wanted was more money….money….and more money. I am glad the state of Georgia consented to be stop the plans of Linger Longer . That beautiful island did not need Linger Longer’s invasion. They would have ruined a beautiful, pristine atmosphere. They are very greedy and wanted to conquer the environment, My family has beern going to Jekyll Island almost 25 years. To us it is paradise. The wild life did not need this intrusion and destruction. And, that is what would have happen. They had all kinds of excuses about keeping the environment “as is”. That was a bold face lie. There is no way the island could have kept a pristine atmosphere with all of their building plans. I am so proud of the State of Georgia and their representatives that fought against the development that was planned. All of us who love the island can be thankful that the plans were stopped. Only some one who loves J.I. can appreicate the island and what it respresents. Congratulations to the Jekyll Island lovers.

    14. Mary K Eargle says:

      Thank you Jekyll Island you did it right this time. This proves that we love you and willing to back you up. A lot of people are behind you and will back you up. We have been coming to Jekyll Island for almost 25 years and we want it to stay the same.It does not need any condos and development. We don’t want to loose that pristine environment. The wild life needs protecting.

    15. Jeff&Karen says:

      Glad to see Linger Longer out of the picture!!Mercer Reynolds’ arrogant statement regarding dissolution of “partnership” spoke volumes-“Our decision to release the authority from it’s commitment to US…”,as if Jekyll Island and the people of Georgia were obligated to the Reynolds family! The version of overpriced “upscale” mediocrity displayed at Reynolds Plantation would only have cheapened Jekyll Island beyond recognition.Jekyll and the people of Georgia deserve better.
      Next step:In 2010,elect a Governor who understands and is committed to preserving Jekyll’s uniqueness and who will appoint to the Jekyll Island Authority board people who are actually qualified to serve as stewards of this precious park rather than the sundry developers,hacks and yes-men currently “serving”.
      Finally,it would be nice if the Jekyll Island Authority sought to INCLUDE in future dialogue those of us who have continued to return to Jekyll year after year rather than ignoring us or forcing us into the role of adversaries,as has previously been done.

    16. JEKYLL FRIEND says:

      THERE WAS NEVER ANY INTENT TO DEVELOP JEKYLL FOR THE PEOPLE OF GEORGIA, THE DEVELOPMENT WAS TO LINE THE GREEDY DEVELOPERS’ POCKETS. THS ONE LAST UNSPOILED PLACE JUST MAY HAVE BEEN SAVED. WHAT A GREAT CHRISTMAS PRESENT.

    17. Dorothy Ingram says:

      The management of Jekyll Island State Park by the authority entrusted with its stewardship bears little if any relationship to accepted public land planning practice. In the State of Georgia, authorities like the Jekyll Island Authority are appointed by the Governor, almost always without any requirement whatsoever placed on its members, other than perhaps a geographical representation, and most often there is no requirement at all. For this reason, professionals with expertise in such critical areas as recreational land use planning and environmental science are notably absent from the board of the Authority which controls the fate of this fragile barrier island. Instead, the Authority is overloaded with developers and banking professionals. Several of Georgia’s “authorities” have in fact become “development authorities,” with the goal of economic development as the primary driving force. Discussions of climate change, sea level rise, conservation easements, and the like are lost on this crowd, eclipsed by the primal passion to develop every square inch of everything that can be developed. Not only is the opinion of the public, for whom this state park was intended, NOT solicited, but valuable feedback that has been carefully and painstakingly collected and professionally presented to the Board by the Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island State Park (www.savejekyllisland.org) has been summarily, and often angrily, dismissed. This grassroots survey indicates that over 95% of visitors to Jekyll Island favor improvements to the existing hotels, conference center and retail spaces in the same footprint as the outdated facilities they replace, and that they do not want to see condos lining their beach. The mutual abandonment of the public private partnership by both Linger Longer and the JIA provides an opportunity to stop, take a deep breath, and carefully examine what Jekyll Island has been doing right all these years, instead of trying to make it into something that it isn’t. Who should do the examining? The experts, the recreational land use planners, the environmental scientists, the people who interact with park visitors every day of the week, and the average citizens to whom the park belongs.

    18. Charlie B. says:

      As a longtime visitor to Jekyll Island, I celebrate the cancellation of what I believe was a shameful deal between the Jekyll Island Authority and Linger Longer. Moreover, I’ve spoken with several fellow visitors and, as anecdotal as it may be, not one has ever voiced support for this deal. Most reasonable people agree that renovations and moderate enhancements are clearly needed, but not on such a disturbingly aggressive scale as was proposed and certainly not based on terms so shockingly disadvantageous to the state of Georgia. Jekyll’s appeal lies in being a nature refuge and affordable vacation getaway for people and families of average means, an unpretentious and non-exclusive place of beauty. That is what makes it unique and an invaluable public asset. I can only hope legislation may be passed which will protect Jekyll from overly ambitious development forever, because otherwise it will always have a target on its back with a dollar sign for a bulls eye. Meanwhile, I do favor an upgraded convention center, the proposed beachfront park, renovations to existing lodgings, new/affordable hotel accommodations as may seem needed, a modernized golf course and, lastly, I would hope that condos and timeshares would be completely excluded from any town center project. I also hope that future projects will be awarded on a fairly competitive, well reasoned and fiscally responsible basis.

    19. Jann Swanson says:

      I volunteer at one of the attractions on the island and constantly hear from visitors how much they appreciate Jekyll and that they can enjoy it with their families and still pay the mortgage. Many have heard about the pending changes, and ask if anything can be done to keep Jekyll as it is.

      We know nothing can stand still, but let us hope that the next round of “improvements” to the island will be better considered and more in keeping with the wishes of the people who own it – not the people who think they do.
      Jann Swanson

    20. Bert Richmond says:

      The major problem with Jekyll is the JIA Board which does not represent the people of Georgia. Instead, they represent the development and financial interests of themselves and those people like them. Return Jekyll Island State Park to the state park system that guides all of our other state parks. Once the hotels, long-ago-approved, are built there will be enough modern housing on Jekyll.

    21. Sassysue says:

      Now that Linger Longer has moved on, the only right thing for the Jekyll Island Authority and Sonny Perdue to do is follow. The Jekyll Island Authority and Sonny Perdue have not represented the people of Georgia or the best interest of Jekyll Island. The people’s opinion in this matter, did not matter.

      Let’s not allow Jekyll Island to become the resort Linger Longer wanted it to be. If we wanted resort, then we can go to St. Simons or Panama City. Look what development has done to St. Simons. You do not even know you are on an island when you visit St. Simons.

    22. sassysue says:

      Now that Linger Longer has moved on, the only right thing for the JIA and Sonny Perdue to is follow. The JIA and Sonny Perdue have not represented the people of Georgia or the best interest of Jekyll Island. The people’s opinion in this matter, did not matter.

      Look what development has done to St. Simons. You do not even know you are on an island because of all of the commercialism.

    23. Glenda Jackson says:

      That was great news!!!! Now with the right people guiding the direction of island and state park. I look forward to visiting again soon. The island is for the people not for the rich. WAY TO GO IPJI !!!!!!!

    24. Sam Walker says:

      It is fortunate that circumstances have led to cancelation of the private-partner contract between the Jekyll Island State Park Authority and Linger Longer Communities (LLC). The 25-year iron grip upon the Park that the contract had given to LLC, was likely to have led to de facto full privatization of the Park. Since LLC has strong connections to, and influence over, State officials, it is also likely that the full privatization would have led eventually to LLC’s gaining actual ownership of Jekyll Island. Since LLC is a developer of luxury resorts, one could have expected Jekyll Island to have become a full-fledged Linger Longer Community. The general public has clearly benefited by the contract’s cancelation.

    25. cam simpson says:

      i agree with georgia girl. there is so much to do on jekyll. my wife and i had our honeymoon on jekyll 38 years ago. we have taken our vacation on jekyll probably 30 years plus and always learn something new every time down. leave jekyll alone and for the average income family. oh,i’m from pennsylvania

    26. I Love Jekyll says:

      The economy saved us from a disastrous JIA-Linger Longer plan. Now that the plan is dead, let’s deal with the complete replacement of the JIA Board. Every member, no exceptions.
      Not a single person would debate improvements are needed at Jekyll. Not a single thinking person would believe the LL deal and the way JIA went about it was in the best interest of Georgians.
      It would be fantasy for any Georgian to rationally believe that the current JIA deserves the opportunity to have another chance at doing this important work. They didn’t listen to the people, acted unilaterally, secretively, and not even close to the best interest of Georgians. Where is Donald Trump when you need him!
      Any suggestions who I talk to so I can get my 25 year exclusive no-bid contract for selling Tee Shirts at Jekyll. I’ll be glad to offer the State a 1% revenue share (so long as the State grants me a $600,000 management fee).
      Sure looks like the tireless (and appropriate) challenges by Sen. Jeff Chapman brought about the proper pressures on the JIA and State that resulted in JIA cancelling their ill-conceived Linger Longer contract.

    27. caretta says:

      Another one of my favorite places, Congaree National Park, has visitors from around the world, and there’s nothing to do there except walk around in the woods! 🙂 Jekyll is a gem, and its naturalness and low-key atmosphere is what brings people there. That’s the vision that should be driving any sort of refurbishment. The truth: I haven’t been to St. Simons in years, but I go to Jekyll every chance I get…(and I’ll confess that I too am glad there are no Big Macs, although I did enjoy the ice cream at the Flash Foods.)

    28. Al Tate says:

      Wow! Another long string of comments that shows just how much public dissatisfaction there is with the proposed LLC deal with JIA. It is very disturbing to see that the officials charged with managing JI have become so determined to ram this development concept down the throats of Georgia Citizens. Now, with LLC dropping out, we have an occasion to step back and take a look at things.
      First, I have had the opportunity to visit with some JI Board Members, and I spent an hour with the JIA Director, Jones Hooks, a few weeks ago. I did not get the impression that these were the devious and slimy characters that they are made out to be in these comments. They came across as individuals who did want to improve JI and enhance it as a special place for Georgians and others to visit. They also seemed to understand that the natural environment on Jekyll is THE major attraction for visitors to the Island. However, from Board meeting notes and comments in the paper it seems obvious that there is little to no understanding that Jekyll’s Natural Environment is the real answer to Jekyll’s financial woes, and that the Board has an obligation to the Citizens of Georgia to insure that developers and facilities managers on Jekyll MUST MAINTAIN their facilities to a much higher standard than we have witnessed over the past 15-20years. Otherwise, the harsh salt air and humid environment will just rapidly deteriorate the new facilities (as it has done to the old) and we will face the same issues 15-20 years from now. Only then, there will be more structures to maintain or rebuild and, because of increasing human density/traffic/pollution problems, the natural environmental assets of Jekyll will be more degraded. There will be less wildlife to observe, and people will be less interested in coming. It is a common human failing that we, all of us, tend to see those who disagree with our point of view as the enemy and attribute evil intentions to them. I believe that most folks who focus their interest on the financial welfare of Jekyll Island have little or no background that helps them to see a way for Jekyll’s natural environment to provide a unique opportunity to really attract visitors AND insure Jekyll’s financial future.
      In spite of what some nature lovers believe, Jekyll Is. does not have pristine beach, marsh, maritime forest or wildlife populations that will continue in perpetuity. These natural features are ever changing and increasingly under stress. JIA, Ga. DNR, or others have very little knowledge about the natural populations that make up the real attractions on JI. There is very little of Jekyll’s revenue that goes into learning about or maintaining Jekyll’s natural assets. Also there is no effort being made to really make the natural environment into a major attraction for visitors. Every year people spent millions of dollars to travel to remote places on the earth just to see exotic wildlife, plants and scenery. They stay in unbelievable primitive facilities and expose themselves to horrible diseases to have the opportunity. Here on Jekyll we have a comfortable, easy access, location to see some really wonderful wildlife and have extraordinary experiences with nature.
      Hey, Jekyll Board, if you want to build something on Jekyll, how about a boardwalk out in that marsh on the south side of the causeway as you enter the island. Put a covered pavilion in the middle so you can walk right out in the marsh, have a seat on a bench and observe Wood Storks, Ibis, Great Egrets, and Little Blue Herons catching killifish, frogs, crabs, periwinkles, etc. You can see Osprey, Bald Eagles, and Marsh Hawks searching for prey or maybe building a nest. You could even put a projection screen out there and watch nature films at night in the marsh.
      You could also work on the Jekyll Conservation Plan, put some resources into managing Jekyll’s natural environment, and develop new, innovative ways for the public to enjoy them. Then you can have some unique and interesting opportunities different from every other tourist site along the east coast for Eric Garvey to market. With the kind of money that was being discussed for Linger Longer Jekyll could create an amazing attraction and help restore the damage now being done to Jekyll wildlife populations and natural environment, largely due to lack of attention. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that JIA spends as much or more on wildlife pest problems, such as raccoons, deer, squirrels, etc. as it does on wildlife conservation. Well there is part of a concept and we haven’t even talked about how attractive this could be for thousands of Georgia school children and would enhance the experience that they get at the Jekyll 4-H center.
      I hope everyone can see real opportunity in this idea for both revenue enhancement and for the support and protection of Jekyll’s natural environment.

    29. Honest Republican says:

      We have a Governor with a record of land deals affected by his high position in government, and the deals resulted in his personal enrichment (Oaky Woods, and the Orlando real-estate scandal). This Governor has loaded the Board of the Jekyll Island Park Authority with real-estate business people, and left the Board without anyone with expertise in park ecology or management of public lands. Why would the Georgia public want to have as the Jekyll Authority’s private partner, the real-estate developer who has been a major political financier for the Governor? Why would the public want this developer of sumptuous communities to have had the Island as one of its profit centers? The Authority has made a good decision: to let the upscale developer go on to other projects, and to open the bidding on individual hotel projects to other private developers.

    30. Babs McDonald says:

      This turn of events gives the Jekyll Island Authority the chance to plan and manage Jekyll Island the right way, if they will do it. The wrong way clearly did not work well for the JIA or the citizens of Georgia. The right way is to follow accepted best practices for public land and outdoor recreation planning. These best practices hinge on transparency in government and the involvement and participation of the public throughout the entire process. If the JIA decides to do what is right, we should be hearing from them soon. They will tell us that they want to know what WE, the citizen-owners of Jekyll Island, want to see on our island. They will make every step in the process a public step. They will stop developing wish lists of “needed” capital improvements in secret, and they will ask US what we want to see, what kind of Jekyll Island experiences we value.

      The past four years have been a tragedy in the making. Fortunately, for whatever reason, we have avoided that tragedy with the collapse of the Linger Longer-JIA agreement. Let’s not start on that road again.

      Jekyll Island is loved for its natural beauty and laid-back atmosphere. As a state park, it is unique on the east coast for its amenities and undeveloped resources. I hope that everyone who has enjoyed Jekyll Island, who hopes to visit in the next few years, and who wants it to remain a treasured place for their children, will continue to remain involved in its future. The JIA should be accountable to each of us. It really is up to us to protect Jekyll Island.

      The end of the JIA-Linger Longer deal is indeed a welcomed holiday gift to the citizens of Georgia.

    31. pamela long says:

      I am so pleased that Linger Longer is out of the picture for Jekyll Island. I just hope future development projects do not include time shares, condos, etc. on the beachfront. Jekyll is one of the few coastal areas left that has not been spoiled by highrise buildings, shopping areas and crowds. Let’s keep it that way.

    32. Kittyj says:

      Since Jekyll Island belongs to the people of Georgia, now’s a great time to get the JIA back on track to giving the public a large voice in what happens there. Yes, the island needs a new convention center and the existing hotels need refurbishing.and there need to be good decent mid-cost places to eat. But condos should never be part of the equation. The current residents lease their spots and no other people should have the option of stressing island resources and environment by living there.And this time — be sure the major financial benefit of rennovation goes directly to benefit the protection and maintenance of the island, not into JIA pockets. Leave the entrance to the island where it is -retain ownership of the retail space- continue with the plans for a new convention center – reconsider the need for 2 convention hotels when a new hotel is opening in January and the promise of the Trammel- Crowe development will provide a significant number of new rooms. This should encourage the existing hotels to recommence their upgrading. Georgia citizens are watching and we care!!

    33. ken cordell says:

      This has been a very interesting and telling exchange. Let me see if I get any of the msgs. First, people like Jekyll Island like it is. People come to Jekyll Island because it is as it is. Second, people (i.e., we citizens and we who own that island) do not want development more than is necessary. Let us, we as owners, ponder and decide what is needed. Third, people want true citizen representation of citizen-owner, average Georgian interests. I wonder if the JIA and its Board would be willing to facilitate that much needed representation?

    34. Jekyll Lover says:

      Reply to Ken Cordell…well stated, I like your concise synopsis though the last sentence.”i wonder if the JIA and its Board would be willing to facilitate that much needed representation” needs to be deleted and replaced with “The JIA Board demonstrated such total inability to address this important task, .and complete indifference to the wishes of Georgians; that the immediate replacement of every Board member is necessary”

    35. David says:

      I think the JIA board may have a chance to win back some measure of public support by backing away from the oceanfront time-share/condo complex that was part of Linger Longer’s town center plan. Since public objection to this project is widely known, the board has no popular mandate or viable rationale for persisting with a plan that would reduce public space and block a slice of Jekyll Island’s currently unobstructed oceanfront with commercial development. If the board bulls ahead with this project at the January 20-21 meeting with developers interested in the town center project, as may well be the case, then Jekyll Lover’s statement about the board’s complete indifference to the wishes of Georgians for their own state park will be reinforced, and the adversarial relationship between the board and those who are supportive of responsible renovation of Jekyll Island State Park will widen once more.

    36. Roy says:

      After reading 25 or more LTRS I agree that something
      needs to be done at the business section it is old outdated
      and needs a facelift badly!
      No condows only reasonally priced hotels.The average
      family can afford $125/night but $200-$400 is too steep!
      We want Jekyll to remain family friendly not a rich man’s
      paridise!!Glad to hear LL of Atlanta is gone come Nov
      Perdue will at last be history too!!I’ll have a tall one on that note!I hope for all that love jekyll it will be here for them for
      a long long time!!

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