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SCOTT STEILEN: Columnist Dick Yarbrough wrong about Sea Island development plans

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Sea Island president responds to critical column by Yarbrough

I wish Dick Yarbrough had called me before he published his column (“Sea Island proposal awash with controversy,” Saturday) because I could have corrected his errors about Sea Island’s plans for the Cloister Reserve, a 7.3-acre property next to existing condominiums, of which 3.5 acres will be the buildable footprint. Mr. Yarbrough: We are not building a “group of condominiums,” the property is not on a “spit,” and it’s not “underwater during high tide.” Your inaccurate reporting could have been avoided if you had visited the building site with me. You would have seen that the site is a vegetated area up to 20 feet high, it’s a mile from the tip of Sea Island, and construction would not cause the island to erode. The privately owned property is zoned for higher-density hotel rooms or condominiums; we chose to limit the development to eight homes.

Quoting Woody Guthrie, he notes that “this land is your land, this land is my land.” Is Mr. Yarbrough suggesting that we redefine the concept of private property ownership? If so, other Georgians who have purchased homes and land may disagree. Does this mean that Mr. Yarbrough’s home on East Beach is also “my land”?

He quotes former Lt. Gov. Pierre Howard, who calls for the “court of public opinion” to be “fully engaged in the deliberations.” In fact, the public was engaged when we went before the Island Planning Commission to obtain plat approval, which was done in full compliance with the law.

While our owners may not reside in Georgia, we remain committed to continuing Sea Island’s tradition of responsible land stewardship and community involvement. We are, and have been, the largest corporate benefactor to the St. Simons Land Trust. When we purchased the Sea Island Company out of bankruptcy in 2010, we committed to re-energizing and growing the business, maintaining a valuable employee base (over 1,800 strong), making whole the unpaid vendors, and honoring our club member deposits. Since then we have invested over $40 million to facilitate growth — clear evidence of our long-term vision.

I admire the work done by Messrs. Yarbrough and Howard to earn the accolades they have received. I just wonder why anyone would risk their credibility without first checking their facts. What does the Yarbrough Rule say about admitting mistakes?

SCOTT STEILEN

Sea Island

EDITOR’S NOTE: Scott Steilen is president of Sea Island.