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IDA peers into tract land planning
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As the Effingham Industrial Development Authority looks at plans for its Research Forest Tract, the more than 2,000 acres west of Rincon is drawing interest.

Wood and Partners, a land planning and landscape architecture firm based in Hilton Head Island, Atlanta and Tallahassee, Fla., laid out what it could do for the Research Forest Tract.

“We wrap our arms around everything,” said Perry Wood, president and senior partner with Wood and Partners.

The IDA has someone studying transportation routes for the tract and someone working on how water and sewer should be installed throughout the property, IDA Chairman Chap Bennett said.

“There’s a lot of moving parts and a lot of players in the development process,” he said.

The IDA has everything on board, IDA CEO John Henry said, except a planner.

“We’ve been reliant on civil engineers to do land planning for us,” he said. “That preliminary plan needs to have more attention to it. We need professional land planning involved.”

Todd Theodore, vice president of Wood and Partners, said he was familiar with the property through his work with Union Camp.

“You want to control its destiny, so that 10 years from now, the vision is still in place,” Theodore said.

Theodore told IDA members that establishing development guidelines can help that, and it also becomes a recruiting tool.

He also said the Research Forest Tract should be integrated into the community and that it can be a legacy the IDA can be proud of.

“This is truly a live, work, play environment,” he said. “It’s a great place. There’s a lot of reasons for it working.”

Theodore also said it was wise not to have commercial development in the western end of the tract, since there isn’t the traffic for it to be viable.

“There are ways you can create a destination,” he said. “You want to protect your investment.”

Henry said that is what the IDA has in mind.

“I want to be able to market 400 acres of land at one time,” he said. “But the integrity of the land is what we want to protect.”

Both Theodore and Wood said planned unit development ordinances could be susceptible to changes from governments.

“We want something with some teeth in it,” IDA member David Carter said.

Wood said Henry indicated he wanted out-of-the-box thinking for Research Forest Tract land planning.

“You have an opportunity to carve out land uses that would attract non-industrial users,” he said. “I understand that your main mission is industry. But land next to a major highway has a lot of other possibilities for highest and best uses.”

Henry said a land planner needs to be involved before the IDA works on roads or any possible annexation.