A State Agency Extends Jekyll Needed Protection; A Special Designation Will Curb Beachfront Development

Article excerpt

Byline: CAROLE HAWKINS

JEKYLL ISLAND, Ga. - Two days before a House committee voted to ban development along Jekyll Island's main beach, a state agency delineated a large portion of the same area as an environmentally sensitive zone.

With the ban standing little chance of passage, laws designed to protect sensitive dunes inside that zone may be conservationists' best recourse in curbing development along the beach.

While Linger Longer Communities, Jekyll Island's development partner, said it can make design changes to meet the environmental standards and permit requirements, conservation groups say it's going to be tougher than they think.

The state Department of Natural Resources' survey showed nearly half of Jekyll's proposed beachfront village will fall within Georgia Shore Protection Act jurisdiction. The Jekyll Island Authority, the island's governing body, had anticipated portions of the development would be affected and had requested the survey in January.

"We take our charge to protect the unique and unspoiled beaches of Jekyll Island very seriously," authority board Chairman Ben Porter said in a statement released Tuesday.

Georgia's Shore Protection Act restricts construction on the landward side of dunes in order to protect the natural flow of the sand that maintains them. The dune system, in turn, protects people and property from storm surges and erosion, said Susan Shipman, director of the DNR's Coastal Resources Division.

To determine the area that falls within the act's jurisdiction, survey crews find the first trees 20 feet and taller west of the dunes and then draw lines between them. Anything on the ocean side of the resulting line is considered to be under the Shore Protection Act.

In order to be granted construction permits, buildings within the jurisdictional area must be hurricane resistant and a third of the land must remain in a natural state, Shipman has said.

An official from developer Linger Longer Communities says the company is taking the news of the jurisdiction line in stride.

"We know this is just part of working on the coast," said Jim Langford, project executive for Linger Longer. "We had already planned some significant changes [to our proposed design] based on public input. …