Bonds OK'd for Mill Project

July 23, 2020, by Jill Helton, Tribune and Georgian.

The Camden County Joint Development Authority (JDA) board approved a bonding resolution on July 16 that will be used to help fund the multi-million-dollar Cumberland Inlet development on the former paper mill site in St. Marys.

Jacoby Development hopes to close on its real estate transaction for the 700-acre site by late August or early September. The JDA shared the company’s site plans during its June meeting.

As a revenue bond, there is less risk to local governments and its taxpayers, said JDA executive director James Coughlin. According to the resolution, it will generate up to $10.8 million for Cumberland Inlet, which will be used to build the various components of the site. Income on the improved site will then be used to pay investors back.

The site also is located in a tax allocation district, which will help generate ad valorem tax revenues for infrastructure improvements at the site.

“These days, public-private partnerships are how large complex sites like this are developed,” Coughlin said.

The total value of the finished project is estimated to be about $300 million, he added.

“We consider that to be a pretty healthy investment,” Coughlin said.

The mixed-use property centers around a full-service marina, which will be located on the North River just past the public boat ramp on Meeting Street. A handful of companies were interested in developing the former mill property over the 15 years it lay dormant, but Jacoby Development has been able to bring to the table what others were unable to do.

“There are still several legal steps to complete, but I think we are now close enough for all of Camden to be excited about the potential and the reality of Cumberland Inlet,” said Jeff Barker, chairman of the JDA board.

The JDA required Jacoby to acquire several financial investor commitments before signing the bonding agreement and Coughlin said Jacoby also has met and exceeded those expectations.

“One of the latest documents is an MOU between Jacoby and Suntex Investments LLC to develop the marina and upscale ecotourism and motorcoach resort park. Suntex is considered one of the most respected marine developers in the United States,” said a news release from the JDA.

The COVID-19 shutdown added some obstacles to the project’s timeline since it was announced last year, but it is still very on track to break ground by year’s end, Coughlin said.

According to Barker, the bond resolution step has several elements to complete before Jacoby will complete the purchase of the site but late August is still the target date.

Like every project the JDA pursues or undertakes, our focus is whether the project is beneficial to the entire county and whether it will create private sector jobs and private sector revenue for the county,” Barker said. “This one certainly fits those criteria. It will be a major economic boost felt from Waverly to Browntown and all points in between.”

The plan focused on just having the marine center when it was conceived three years ago and was estimated to bring 25-50 jobs. With the expanded site plan, which includes ecotourism amenities, full-service RV and motorcoach park, condos, hotel, restaurants and retail space, the project could create as many as 250 jobs at full build-out, Coughlin said.

Not all of the site plan will be executed right away, Coughlin said, but the marina will be the first priority, with other phases coming online in the years to come. While thousands of tourists are already familiar with Cumberland Island, he thinks this project will put Camden County on the map in a whole new way.

“Hopefully, this will create that critical mass of people,” Coughlin said.

Source: Tribune and Georgian