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County amends Exley tract pact
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Developers and representatives of the New Savannah tract are ready to move forward after Effingham County commissioners agreed Tuesday to amend a longstanding agreement on water.

Representatives from the New Savannah and Exley tracts asked the county to re-do their pact on water and sewer service for the more than 1,000 acres between Goshen Road and Highway 21. The tract also had its rezoning from planned development-mixed use and industrial to planned development-mixed use approved.

Because of the change in the nature of the project, county attorney Eric Gotwalt said, the Exley and New Savannah group asked the contract be revised in terms of the capacity they now expect to use, rather than the capacity that was in the original deal.

To get the lines to their property, the developers had paid the county $3.5 million and were in line to pay another $3.7 million over the next five to seven years. But in order for the group to get those credits, that would have tied up potential impact fees from properties the county currently cannot serve.

“We put $3.5 million in cash to this deal to get construction to get started,” said Murphy McLeain. “We have a regional lift station that we donated the land for that will serve other properties around. That’s all installed. It’s been in place for a while.

“We’re delighted the county has worked with us and look forward to this being a revenue driver for the county.”

Though not getting the cash flow is a drawback, the county is now tied into promising revenues from future impact fees, according to Gotwalt.

“There are pros and cons,” he said, adding he and county administrator David Crawley met several times with Exley/New Savannah group. “We think it’s a fair trade off, given the current economic situation. The residential development has slowed down significantly, so there would have been a cash flow problem (anyway).”

David Howze, one of many neighboring residents to question the rezoning proposal, also inquired if the new deal wouldn’t hamper the county’s revenues.

“What is it going to cost the taxpayers to amend that agreement?” he said. “The current agreement states that the impact fees would bring in $15 million in revenue. The county has still provided what it said it was going to provide.”

Gotwalt said what has changed is the developers won’t be using as much of the sewer line.

“But the county will have added capacity,” he said. “In the long term, we’ll have that capacity and we expect that it will be used.”

Crawley added that the infrastructure now in place can be used to provide service to areas that since have been rezoned.

McLean said that as the tracts are developed — the southern tract, which is zoned industrial, is expected to be done first — there will be impact fees paid by the developer.

“That will go toward paying for water and sewer infrastructure,” he said. “We paid for the capacity that is existing down there now. The county is planning on extending lines from where we stop, to be served from lines off our lines. On the residential area on our north side, everybody is going to be paying the normal impact fees.”

How quickly the industrial area will be developed could be answered soon.

“We have an interested developer/buyer right now,” McLean said. “He has two buildings in mind. We have a lot of national and international interests that are mainly port related. So we see the park as an asset for the county, as we’ve said all along.”

New Savannah representatives pointed to forecasts that the port of Savannah would triple its capacity within the next 10 years, putting warehouse and distribution space at a premium. The land’s proximity to the port is seen by its group as a tremendous asset.

“More of the West Coast warehouse and distribution outfits are looking at the East Coast,” McLean said. “They’re at capacity now. There might be a lull now, but there’s another wave coming.”