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Guyton in talks with Coastal YMCA for new facility
aerial view of 718 Central Ave.
Aerial view of property (submitted)

By Barbara Augsdorfer, Editor for the Effingham Herald


In a bold move, the City of Guyton is eyeing property for future development into a recreation site, along with a possible collaboration with the YMCA, which may add a facility to the project.

The property at 718 Central Blvd., is currently owned by Savannah-based Spiva Law Group, who is agreeable to the sale. The City and Spiva Law Group have signed a letter of intent to complete the transaction for $750,000. The funds would come from Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds and proceeds from two certificates of deposit.

Mayor Russ Deen and the City Council expressed excitement about the project, saying if the YMCA of Coastal Georgia came on board, it would be able to offer childcare, recreation, and sports programs within walking distance from Guyton Elementary School.

“The YMCA has expressed use of those buildings (currently on the property) which should lead to future expansions,” Deen said. “We are still in the conversation phase so no agreements have been made at this date, but we should know a significant amount more (after) the April 4 meeting.”

The city is hosting a workshop with the YMCA of Coastal Georgia at the Guyton Gymnasium, 505 Magnolia St., on Tuesday, April 4 at 7 p.m. The public is invited to share ideas and input on what they want at the proposed facility.

The only YMCA facility in Effingham County is in Rincon.

Theodore Hamby
Theodore Hamby expressed disapproval of the sale of the property from Spiva Law Group to the City of Guyton. (Photo by Barbara Augsdorfer)
However, the project is not without its detractors. Theodore Hamby of Guyton addressed the council at its March 14 meeting. Hamby accused the council of “bailing out” Spiva for a “bad real estate deal.” Hamby was warned by Mayor Deen regarding his accusatory and potentially slanderous tone.

Hamby stated the property at 718 Central Blvd. was purchased by Spiva last year for $500,000 and was now selling it to the City of Guyton for $750,000. He stated that the city “already has” a recreational facility at Bazemore Park.

According to Howard Spiva of Savannah-based Spiva Law Group PC, the sale of the property was not intended to “make a profit” but to help the community.

“It's one of the reasons that I chose to sell the property to Guyton and even though they were against me making a profit,” Spiva said. “I sold it for a considerable amount less than what I could sell it to developers right now. I've turned down a number of people for long-term very lucrative leases.”

He added that the property could easily be sold for more than $1 million, and that Spiva also was hoping to move their own non-profit to the site, but instead chose to sell the site to the City of Guyton.

Regarding Hamby’s comments, Spiva said, “He's entitled to his opinion, but he's just completely wrong. He has false information. And he has no clue of what values of properties are in Effingham County.”

Mayor Deen added the site is close to Guyton Elementary and would be able to serve the city’s growing needs for recreation and childcare facilities, especially with the cooperation of the YMCA.

The Savannah-based attorney concurred with Deen’s assessment of what Guyton needs to do regarding the growth that’s coming to the county with all the new warehouses, jobs, and people.

“I think Guyton has been smart with putting (recreation and other infrastructure) in place and there's a lot more stuff that they're working on,” Spiva said. “People want to work at the plants and the warehouses in Fort Howard and all that. (Then) they want to come home to ‘Mayberry’,” making a reference to the small town portrayed in old TV shows such as The Andy Griffith Show.

Spiva added, “Guyton has gotten the historic district that they put in, you know, architectural plans and zoning and a Tree Protection Act, then they're going to have people coming in spending a lot of money, fixing it up and tours of homes and tours of churches and it’s going to be Mayberry; but if they don't, then it's going to be ‘Walley World’,” referring to a 1980s National Lampoon comedy.

Spiva expressed cautious optimism for Guyton when he said, “I think the mayor said it best when he said, ‘What's going on right now is a gold rush.’ And, and my comment to him was, ‘Yeah, there's a gold rush, but we've got a hidden diamond. And we have to preserve it because there are wonderful places in Guyton."