Jacoby signs Development
agreement for mill site

June 25, 2020, by Jill Helton, Tribune and Georgian.

An agreement reached last week between a private developer and three local governments could mark the return of the former paper mill site in St. Marys as an economic driver.

Camden County Joint Development Authority (JDA) met in executive session on June 18, and then reconvened in public to unanimously approve the agreement. The City of St. Marys and Camden County are also parties to that

“The vote today is a key step in bringing a public/private partnership to fruition that is designed to transform the former mill site property into an exciting endeavor that will bring new jobs, industry and commerce and tourism opportunities to Camden County,” said Jeff Barker, JDA board chairman. “The economic benefit of this venture is the most significant in JDA’s history.”

While the development has carried a few different named, developer Jim Jacoby has settled on Cumberland Inlet, which draws on the enormous tourism appeal represented by anything associated with the nearby national seashore, Cumberland Island. And of course the Jacoby brand, known for developing a few other high-end marinas, is also expected to be a draw for the site.

Although the project will be developed in phases, an updated site plan was presented at last week’s JDA meeting that outlines Jacoby’s vision for the more than 700-acre site.

Speaking on behalf of Jacoby, John Loudon explained that this was a passion project for Jacoby, who has been coming to this site for more than two decades. He has not been sitting on his hands since getting the property
under contract about 14 months ago, but talking to local stakeholders about what they want to see there.

“The great thing about working on this project is that everybody has been tremendously forthcoming about how they would like to see the property develop,” said Loudon, who thanked the JDA, city and county for being
helpful during the due diligence part of the process. The state has already granted approvals for digging a basin into the site to accommodate the marina, taking it out of the relatively fast current of the North River. The adjacent public boat ramp at the end of Meeting Street will remain where it currently sits to complement the offerings at the development.

Loudon said Jacoby already has a few private companies on board to work on the marina portion of the project. Adjacent to the marina will be “dry stacks” for boat storage. Also farther along the riverfront site will be multi-use property (condos, apartments for over 55, military and vacation rentals) and some commercial space. Those areas will be buffered with recreational, park
and greenspace areas, including the large elevated hill overlooking the North River.

The plans call for a “flex marina” further back into the river, which could also include such amenities as a restaurant and kayak launch, Loudon said.
One of the best-kept secrets about the mill property is that it includes a world-class rookery that is teeming with waterfowl and all sorts of native and migratory wildlife throughout the year.

Loudon said that area holds loads of potential as an ecotourism attraction. With the lowest impact camping located nearest to the rookery, the site could include everything from primitive camping with tents to luxury RV and motor coach camping, he added.

The site is so massive that many areas have simply been earmarked for future development or recreational space. Developers envision Cumberland Inlet will be a destination maximizing on the natural attributes of the Intracoastal Waterway while also filling some gaps in the local residential market.

“This plan won’t happen all at one time. It will be phased in to help us adjust to the marketing,” Loudon said. “We tried to make our project as flexible as possible so we can keep moving.”

Aquaponics farm

Earlier plans to offer aquaponics farming at the site were revised months ago and the Cannery Mills operation is now negotiating with the JDA for a site at the former St. Marys airport. Cannery Farms does not want to build on
a leased site and have to move later.

JDA director James Coughlin said he was uncertain whether the building owner, Dawson Empowerment Group, was willing to sell.