GreenRoom: May 2008

• Linger Longer Communities, which is redeveloping Jekyll Island in partnership with the Jekyll Island Authority, revamped its plans in order to place a park and environmental conservation center on a site formerly planned for hotels and condominiums.

Since the late ’60s, the 7.5-mile barrier island has been required by law to be 65 percent untouched, but some of its accommodations have fallen in to disrepair, and plans to revitalize tourism have been controversial. Thousands sent messages to the House committee reviewing the redevelopment plans, insisting more beachfront remain accessible to all Georgians. Dozens of columnists across the state protested new development, which they feared would block lower income residents from visiting the area.

Ben Porter of the Jekyll Island Authority cited federal protection laws for the change. But as the session wore down, advocates from Environment Georgia were fighting to permanently protect Jekyll’s beaches from future development.

The developer’s decision was clearly a victory for grassroots efforts to preserve beachfront property. (Just a week earlier, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle had blocked an attempt to restrict beachfront construction.) The House also voted against a provision that would have encouraged offshore drilling, further protecting Georgia’s coast from pollution and erosion.

• Senate Resolution 845, which would have allowed regions to vote for a T-SPLOST (or transportation penny tax), failed by three votes, further dashing hopes of any resolution to Georgia’s transportation crisis in the near future.

A few days later, the Georgia Department of Transportation was revealed to be $1 billion in debt. Gov. Sonny Perdue, who probably would have vetoed the bill, called for an outside audit of GDOT; and as if to rub salt into the wounds of Georgia commuters, legislators also voted to allow people to carry guns on MARTA trains.

But in a surprise silver lining, the state attorney general’s office recently told GDOT that a commuter rail line stretching from Lovejoy to Marietta through Atlanta would cost the state only $42 million. Nearly $80 million has already been earmarked in federal funds for commuter rail to Lovejoy. The plot thickens… .

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