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Lawmaker takes on Jekyll development plan
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Editor, Linger Longer's Jim Langford has found fault with my resolution issued on Jan. 4 calling for the preservation of public access to the main beach at Jekyll Island State Park. In criticizing the resolution and defending Linger Longer's proposed oceanfront Jekyll village, Mr. Langford has managed to make murky an issue that needs clarity.
If the public and especially the people I represent had not expressed their concerns to me, I would have no reason to take a hard look at current plans. Like most people, I appreciate a good business vision. However, a state park with prime beach front that belongs to all the people of Georgia begs more scrutiny. Thus far, those wanting to develop a town center and condos on Jekyll appear to be few and primarily connected to the business community. I believe Linger Longer could do a fine job with its plans, however, the general public has convinced me this is not what they want. The public has not called for extensive redevelopment plans, only for revitalization.
As to the details, according to Mr. Langford, the proposed Jekyll village would block only eight percent of Jekyll's total beachfront. What he doesn't say, however, is that the site in question spans nearly the entire length of the only remaining beach unblocked by hotels and private homes, easily accessible to the general public at all tide levels. Its openness is one of Jekyll's most beautiful features, valued by its visitors, who, by and large, stand opposed to building a town center in a state park, especially a town center on the beach.
"The existing convention center currently blocks much of the view," says Mr. Langford, perhaps implying that the new town center he proposes would not. Truth be told, his town center would not only include the area of the current convention center but additional beach frontage that would block much more of the view and create a commercialized beach setting.
Mr. Langford asks why anyone should support a resolution that "claims accessibility requires maintaining nearly five-acres of 1960s era asphalt parking lots." The reality is beach accessibility requires convenient parking near the beach. Linger Longer asks for most of the parking areas to be replaced with condos and other development. His point on the asphalt surface of the present lots is irrelevant. Lot surfaces can be changed to be more environmentally-friendly; a condominium village, on the other hand, is for keeps.
Linger Longer believes that its town center will have adequate public parking, with one-third of the parking slots being "within a three-minute walk of the beach."  Why should Georgians be expected to park along the busy streets of Jekyll village, or much farther away, then make their way to the beach among the shadows of privately-owned condominiums to access their public beach in their own state park? 
Why criticize a project that will adhere to "environmentally sensitive design and construction," asks Mr. Langford. The "greenness" of the proposed Jekyll village, however, is not the point. The point is Jekyll's unobstructed oceanfront is the centerpiece of the island's attraction to park visitors. It should not to be traded away for a condo-retail community, no matter how "green" it might be.
And let's not forget that the Jekyll village will provide the island with "a viable commercial hub," Mr. Langford states. Contrary to what Mr. Langford is suggesting, Georgians visit and value Jekyll for what nature has provided, not for the kind of memories a "commercial hub" would create. If Linger Longer is bound and determined to provide a "commercial hub," does the Jekyll Island Authority have to locate it on the beach?  People are contacting me and leaving helpful comments at my website, The overwhelming responses I receive daily are let's rebuild and revitalize existing facilities, stop the building of private condos, and keep the rest of the beach in its natural beauty. I think the people are right.

State Senator Jeff Chapman
State Capitol
Suite, 110 D
Atlanta, GA 30334
404.656.0045 or 912-399-8683
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