To: Save Lazaretto

Deport The Casino Boat!

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We, the undersigned, hereby petition the City of Tybee Island Council members and Mayor Jason Buelterman to use all means within their authority to deny the owners of the 135-foot Jacks or Better 1 the ability to establish and operate a casino boat business in the Lazaretto Creek Maritime District.

The business operation of this casino boat in the Lazaretto Creek area poses the following potential threats to the residents, businesses, and visitors of Tybee Island:
• Traffic jams and accidents due to increased traffic at the Old Highway 80 intersection with U.S. Highway 80. This potentially involves hundreds of extra cars, with possibly impaired drivers due to bar service during the cruise, all of which are exiting AGAINST traffic at the base of the bridge.
• Closure of the Lazaretto Creek bridge if hit by the ship which will leave Tybee residents and visitors stranded on or off the island, unable to work and/or care for family.
• Risks to public safety as this ship, under its current owner, has a long history of serious safety infractions cited by the U.S. Coast Guard including a “marine casualty” in 2013 and striking a channel marker in Galveston in 2017.
• Environmental damage to the marsh ecosystem.
• Harm to the existing character, culture, and businesses of the Lazaretto Creek maritime district.

Why is this important?

In August 2018, Cruises to Nowhere, LLC moored the 135-foot Jacks or Better 1 casino boat along Lazaretto Creek at the base of Tybee Island’s only, structurally unsound bridge (per a 2016 Georgia Department of Transportation study), along a WWII-era dock, and at the picturesque gateway to this charming and unique gem of coastal Georgia.

Based on research found in U.S. Coast Guard records; inquiries to GDNR; quotes from the owner and general managers of the boat found in media; review of Tybee’s own codes; and other means of investigation and determination, we, the residents, cite the following risks and concerns as our reasons for asking Tybee Island’s Planning Commission and the Tybee City Council to refuse the Jacks or Better 1 Lazaretto Creek site plan and deny the business license to Cruises to Nowhere, LLC.:
1. Previous casino boats have not been good partners: Diamond Royale/Sun Cruz VII casino boat owners (Diamond Cruise Casino, LLC and Marine Charters, LLC), general manager and captains were indicted for operating an illegal gambling business on board. In 2014, Tradewinds Casinos’ the Escapade docked at Bull River ran aground on a sandbar on its maiden voyage, stranding passengers for 16 hours, and left town only 14 months later.
2. While a combined figure of fewer than 150 passengers and crew was given to the Planning Commission on August 20 by the ship’s captain and Lazaretto Creek property owner, substantial documentation exists through quotes from the boat’s owner and his general managers that the capacity is as high as 500.
3. Traffic from those boat passengers will potentially add hundreds of cars simultaneously at the dangerous intersection of Old Highway 80 and Highway 80—with drivers who are possibly impaired crossing against traffic at night. The injury risks are real, in addition to serious backups.
4. The boat is moored near the base of the Lazaretto Bridge. In 2016, Georgia’s DOT gave this bridge a safety rating of only 41.4%/100 and scheduled it for replacement. The boat at 135’ and its weight could potentially damage the bridge in rough weather. There is also a question about whether it can fully clear under the bridge in king tides or other exceptional conditions.
5. Jacks or Better 1, since its purchase by its current owner in 2010, has a long history of serious safety infractions cited by the U.S. Coast Guard—most of which are listed in 2017, indicating many years of neglect including rotted fire hoses. A “marine casualty” is cited in 2013, and it hit a channel marker in Galveston in 2017, for instance.
6. Tybee Island makes the fifth mooring of Jacks or Better 1 in only eight years; the boat has not remained anywhere for more than two years (previous ports include Mayport/Jacksonville, FL; Little River, SC; Aransas Pass, TX; and Galveston, TX). These brief stays do not demonstrate that Tybee residents should have confidence that Cruises to Nowhere is a reliable Tybee business and community partner.
7. The boat poses a threat when arriving and departing to recreational boaters, kayakers, jet skiers, and paddleboarders with its wake.
8. The environmental impacts of this boat are as yet unknown; the owners have offered no plans for fuel storage, waste removal, etc. We don’t know if any equipment on the boat will interfere with the safety of dolphin, manatees or any other wildlife, or if there will be significant chemical impact on the marshes from the boat or the additional cars parked.