Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jekyll's Residents Relieved by New Law; Perdue Signs a Bill Protecting the South End of the Island from Development

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jekyll's Residents Relieved by New Law; Perdue Signs a Bill Protecting the South End of the Island from Development

Article excerpt

Byline: BRANDON LARRABEE

Gov. Sonny Perdue signed a bill into law Wednesday that will protect the south end of Jekyll Island from development.

Perdue signed House Bill 214 on the final day when he could decide to do so, relieving environmentalists and Jekyll Island residents who worried that he would veto the measure. The law also extends the expiration of the Jekyll Island Authority's lease for 40 years, from 2049 to 2089, and reinforces the state's intent that no more than 35 percent of the island can be developed.

"Jekyll Island is a fantastic resource with so much unrealized potential for being one of the most popular destination vacation spots on the Atlantic coast," Perdue said in a news release Wednesday. "I have today taken what is a giant step toward ensuring that the very qualities we admire most about Jekyll Island are protected while we set the stage for some much needed revitalization to occur."

The lease extension is an effort to spark new investment in the island by developers and the tourism industry by providing them the promise of stability. A provision of the bill added at the behest of environmentalists and Jekyll Island residents would also bar further development on the environmentally fragile south end of the island, home to a 4-H Center and a soccer complex.

"The bottom line is, [Perdue] did the right thing for Jekyll and we're thankful for that," said David Egan, who with his wife, Mindy, heads the Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island.

The debate over Jekyll Island, which was purchased by the state decades ago and set aside by law as a getaway for middle-income Georgians, became one of the most emotionally charged of the session. Environmental groups and development-wary lawmakers pushed to shield the island from overdevelopment, while others argued that their efforts tampered with the authority's ability to run the island.

The south end protections, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick, won approval only after a lengthy battle that ended in the Senate. Chapman praised Perdue on Wednesday for signing the bill.

"Gov. Perdue is the one that has initiated that protection and addressed the needs of Jekyll that have been neglected for a long time," he said. …

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