Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Deal OKs Limits on Jekyll; Compromise Legislation Will Allow Another 20 Acres for Residential Projects on Barrier Island

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Deal OKs Limits on Jekyll; Compromise Legislation Will Allow Another 20 Acres for Residential Projects on Barrier Island

Article excerpt

Byline: Terry Dickson

JEKYLL ISLAND | Gov. Nathan Bill signed two legislative bills Monday that ended decades of wrangling over development on the state-owned barrier island.

House Bill 715 and Senate Bill 296 did the same thing, capping development on the island at 1,675 acres, thus superseding an old state law that limited development to 35 percent of the high ground but set off 40 years of arguments on where the marsh ended and the uplands began.

Before Deal signed the bills, Jekyll Island Authority board chairman Richard Royal, a former legislator himself, said he had never seen two identical bills approved so quickly. Royal said it was due to the stakeholders on both sides making small compromises.

Deal called the bills historic.

He also laid out the numbers in the bills noting that of the 78 acres that could be developed, only 20 acres would be for new residential projects, 12 acres would be used to expand the island campground and the rest for public projects. The authority said that could be trails, roads and infrastructure projects, among other things.

Pierre Howard, president of the Georgia Conservancy, praised the compromise that made it possible.

"We came to a good place, I think,'' Howard said. "This shows me people can still work together and get things done."

Howard said although the new legislation solves the big issues, it won't quiet all the debate.

"I think there are some other issues that remain to be resolved'' - building heights for example, Howard said.

Those could be resolved on the board level, he said.

The past development limits had raised a furor statewide as the Jekyll Island Authority considered new maps in its master plan that added more acreage to the island and gave the authority more land to develop. The issue centered on a 40-year-old law that limited development to 35 percent of the land above mean high tide, but the new maps designated marsh as high ground, critics said. …

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