Revised Plan For Jekyll Island Announced
On October 6th, Linger Longer Communities revealed its revised plan for a Jekyll Island town center. The new plan, at first glance, suggests a town center much different than the over-sized and condo-dense beach village in Linger Longerís original proposal, and closer to what many Georgians have been calling for over the past year.
While the town center question may be decided in the publicís favor, the long-term future of Georgiaís only coastal state park, unfortunately, is far from secure.
The Jekyll Island Authorityís planning consultant, the Bleakly Advisory Group (BAG), recently presented a study designed to provide a framework for determining the appropriate level of future development on the island. While professional long-term planning for the future of the peopleís park is needed, the Authority has done a disservice to the people of Georgia by approaching this task in an upside down manner.
Instead of employing experts in the field of public land planning, the JIA hired BAG, a firm that headed the team that selected Linger Longer Communities as the Authorityís private partner but has a serious lack of experience in public land planning.
Instead of focusing on how future development would affect the quality of the visitor experience, BAG focused on hyping the financial benefits for the Authority from a growth scenario that would more than double the existing number of Jekyllís residences and lodgings.
Instead of asking Jekyllís visitors what the future of Jekyll should hold, BAG excluded the public from the planning process, preferring instead to guess at what Georgians want for their own state park.
BAGís errors in methodology are matched by problems in the report itself.
The report says Jekyllís projected build-out aims to produce a 20 percent rise in visitation when compared to peak figures of the late 1980s, but BAG calls for a 125 percent increase in the parkís current number of lodgings and residences, far beyond what is needed to produce the 20 percent increase in visitors.
The study suggests that Jekyllís build out is small in comparison to development seen at other coastal resorts. BAG has missed the point here Ė Jekyll is a state park which, by its very nature, is different from other coastal vacation sites. Comparisons to heavily developed private resorts, therefore, are both misleading and meaningless.
In BAGís vision of the new Jekyll, daily room rates would increase 7 percent a year to $240 a day by the end of the forecast period. Room rate increases of this size may look fine to the JIA but are out of step with Georgia law mandating Jekyllís affordability and would price the park beyond the reach of most Georgians.
The report accepts as fact the JIAís need for $99 million to cover what BAG refers to as a financial ďwish list,Ē but the items on this list have yet to be justified, prioritized, or proven to be cost-effective.
Worse yet, BAG forecasts that the projects and infrastructure needs on the wish list could be funded by $100 million of revenue bonds, part of which would help cover the cost of private development within a state park. Are we now to believe that privatized profits and socialized costs are good for our free market system?
Add to the above concerns the possibility that the public-private partnership now under negotiation between the JIA and LLC may lead to what amounts to the privatization of Jekyllís revenue-generating facilities, and we can see why there is cause for concern over the JIA boardís park stewardship.
Charting the future of a public asset as unique as Jekyll should be done by the best of the best in the field of public land planning, yet, for whatever reasons, the JIA chose to settle for less. The Authority needs to make things right by having experts review the BAG report and outline how best to manage and improve the park.
Planners, stakeholders and elected officials must recognize the fundamental truth that Jekyll is a state park set aside for the plain people of Georgia, and that park planning will not be worth the paper itís written on unless it serves this truth faithfully.
- Contact Information
- David Egan
- Co-Director, Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island State Park
- Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island State Park
- Contact via E-mail
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