By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Builders want help in polishing community image
Placeholder Image

A local developers group is asking the Effingham Industrial Development Authority for its help in improving the image of the county — and in getting a better range of restaurants to the community.

Murray Marshall, a longtime area developer, said his group supports allowing alcohol by the drink sales in order to lure more and better establishments to the area.

“Full service restaurants are what we need,” Marshall said. “If we don’t move soon, we’ll lose them to Chatham County. You have to be able to get a beverage.”

He called for a referendum on alcohol by the drink sales in each municipality and the county.

“It’s not alcohol sales we’re after,” he said. “It’s keeping that revenue here. That’s something hopefully the IDA will jump on board with us, to get it passed over the next year.”

Marshall said he knows there are people who oppose alcohol sales, but not having it available in the county means those sales tax receipts are going to Chatham County and not Effingham County.

“We’re not talking about bars,” he said. “We’re talking about full service restaurants. We’re not talking about package stores.”

The group formed to make sure that developers and realtors had a voice in Effingham’s decision-making.

“It took us a long time to get together and have the first meeting,” Marshall said. “We’re trying to figure out how to improve the image of Effingham County,” he said. “We experienced negative attitudes about what they heard about Effingham County. We want to figure out a way to improve the quality of life.”

The group is backing a water and sewer authority. Marshall pointed to the success of the Beaufort-Jasper Water and Sewer Authority just across the South Carolina line, calling it one of the most successful in the country.

Marshall called on the local government entities to set aside their differences and work toward a water-sewer authority.

“There’s too much bickering,” he said. “It’s not in the best interest of the county to have the fighting going on.”

IDA Vice-Chairman Chap Bennett said the Chamber of Commerce has backed a water-sewer commission and an ad hoc committee is at work.

“The countywide water-sewer authority is very active right now,” IDA Chief Executive Officer John Henry said. “There are still a lot of people who don’t know about it, and there’s a lot of turf issues related to it.”

Marshall said the group is also concerned about roads and would like to see an urban transportation committee formed that would not have a vote but would study and advise local governments on roads.

“The Effingham Parkway has been discussed for, gracious, now 10 years,” he said. “In other communities, there are active road committees, looking to what’s going to happen this year and 20 to 25 years from now.”

The various governments also sometimes have their own agendas, which doesn’t help when trying to get the state Department of Transportation’s help, according to Marshall.

“Sometimes they come together, and sometimes they don’t,” he said, “and the DOT doesn’t know who to listen to.”

Bennett said the board has championed such a transportation body.

“I guess it never did get the buy-in like it could have,” he said.

Marshall also implored IDA members to get involved with the comprehensive plan currently under development.

“Ya’ll should have been paying more attention to the comprehensive plan,” he said. “When it’s adopted, that’s what we’ve got to live with.”

Marshall said the county can change parts of the comp plan later, but it’s not easy.

Developers took exception to a suggestion during the early community participation phase that developers should not be allowed to have any input, including holding office, in the county. Marshall said the draft plan currently being worked on is much more balanced.

The developers group also wants to have a stronger hand in bolstering the voter rolls in Effingham. One idea is to have attorneys at property closings hand voter registration cards to home buyers.

“There’s a lot of growth,” Marshall said. “But there’s not a lot more registered voters.”