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Fort Howard Road area target for developers
Ackerman Road
Ackerman Road is a narrow street that doesn’t have space for widening. It is located between The Abbey and The Cove properties on Fort Howard Road near Rincon Elementary School. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff
Our new planning director (Jason Stewart), much to his credit, who has a lot of experience in growth management, cautions that we need a strategic response to this development.
City Manager John Klimm

 RINCON — The City of Rincon is urging teamwork in its quest to manage population growth and the issues surrounding it.

The Rincon City Council sent a letter to the Effingham County Board of Commissioners on Jan. 7 to express concern about several “very large” residential proposals along Fort Howard that have come to it “all at once.” The projects are planned for parcels located just outside the city limits.

“Our new planning director (Jason Stewart), much to his credit, who has a lot of experience in growth management, cautions that we need strategic a strategic response to this development,” City Manager John Klimm said during a Jan. 11 city council meeting. 

The council recently notified Coleman Company Inc. and real estate agent James Dasher, working on behalf of Lamar Crowell, that the City of Rincon won’t provide water and service to an Ackerman Road project. The developer subsequently chose not to pursue an annexation request. 

Klimm said the initial proposal called for 350-400 homes. The letter states that project has been pared to 287 homes — 76 townhomes and 211 single-family detached units — and submitted to the county for comments. 

The letter says the revised concept shows the developer intends to move forward without allowing for multiple entrances to handle the traffic volume generated by the proposal. The concept includes a projected daily peak of 1,867 two-day trips on Ackerman Road, a narrow street that doesn’t have space for widening.

Dasher declined to talk about the situation Thursday, explaining that the property is under contract with an agent in his office. Assistant County Manager Eric Larson said Thursday that the county hasn’t received an application to build a subdivision on it. 

The council’s letter to county commissioners says, “The City of Rincon has concerns as to whether it is appropriate to develop a proposal of this size given the transportation and traffic challenges along Ackerman Road and the Fort Howard corridor, and whether it’s in the city’s best interest to provide water and sewer service to a development which exacerbates those challenges. The only access to the property would be off Ackerman Road, a city street. Ackerman Road was not designed to handle traffic volume of 287 or more residential units and if this project were developed within the city limits it would be required pursuant to city ordinances to have two entrances and exits from the proposed project to handle the traffic load.”

“There were significant concerns about the traffic impact and that is only one of at least four or five development proposals that our being directed our way,” Klimm added during the council meeting. “These are all developments off of Fort Howard (Road) and I suspect that our existing residents in the area are not aware that we are beginning to receive a significant amount of interest in not only development of the land but requesting (population) density increases on the land.” 

The letter also indicated concern about the Ackerman Road project’s impact on the Effingham County School District. Rincon Elementary School, capable of housing 1,200 students, is within one-quarter mile of the Ackerman Road project. 

“We’ve got a little bit of opportunity for growth at Rincon Elementary now but, certainly, if everyone who moved into those houses had small children, we might have to take another look at it as time went on,” Superintendent Dr. Yancy Ford said.

Last August during a retreat at Effingham College & Career Academy, Ford urged the county’s governmental bodies to work together to prepare for growth. The county’s population, currently at about 64,000, is expected to exceed 76,000 by the end of the current decade.

“The growth study that (the Effingham County Board of Education) did (recently) showed that there was going to be growth in Rincon and the south end of the county,” Ford said. “We’ve been very proactive in the last year and a half trying to keep up with that growth by adding a wing (of 12 classrooms) at South (Effingham) Elementary and we are currently adding 14 classrooms at Ebenezer Elementary, and our board has authorized us to move forward with a 24-classroom addition at Blandford Elementary. Even with that, within the next five years, we feel like we are going to need an additional elementary and middle school somewhere in the Rincon-South Effingham area to handle the growth that is occurring.

“Currently, all three of our middle schools are at around 1,000 (students) or a little more. We are very fortunate that they are all very similar in size right now but as we continue to grow — so that we don’t have overcrowding in our schools — we are going to have to add an additional elementary and middle school. 

“We don’t want to wait until the growth gets here and then realize that we have to start building.”

In its letter, the Rincon City Council requested that a study be required to better understand the fiscal impact of the Ackerman Road proposal to schools and other services. It also suggested a study to consider the impact on traffic on surrounding properties, including the Lost Plantation, Stone Walk and The Abbey subdivisions.

“The City of Rincon remains open to working with Effingham County in regards to the challenges presented by this project and other development projects of shared interest to make sure they serve the best interests of the city and county,” the letter concludes. “In addition, the City of Rincon is concerned that once again, a developer is attempting to circumvent needed requirements or bypass certain issues by playing the city against the county or vice versa.”