St. Marys approves development Agreement for mill site

July 23, 2020, by Johna Strickland Rush, Tribune and Georgian.

After 15 years of failed possibilities, the proposed marine center on the old paper mill site in St. Marys took another step toward reality earlier this month when St. Marys City Council signed the development agreement. Council approved a bond agreement for the project this week too.

“I think it’s a long, hard road that we have taken to get to the point where we have something that we will all be really proud of in the next few years as it comes to completion,” Mayor John Morrissey said before the vote.

With Jacoby Development Inc. at the helm, the project promises a mixed-use approach across the 700-acre site with a marina, housing, retail and restaurant space.

“I don’t see any negatives. I don’t think that there’s such a thing as a perfect plan but this is a close to it as it could possibly be,” councilman Jim Goodman said of the agreement. “I’m extremely encouraged by it and I’m looking forward to seeing that come to pass.”

Per the agreement, the city will not issue any bonds for the project and has no liability for bonds issued by the Camden County Joint Development Authority (JDA) or debt Jacoby may incur, JDA executive director James Coughlin said. The city will also have a role in approving the building and financial plans.

“As you know there was a great deal of effort and emphasis put on protecting the city while at the same time allowing you the opportunity to recognize the full benefits of this project,” Coughlin said.

Jacoby Development and Jim Jacoby are known for their work on other highend marinas and the Atlantic Station revival in Atlanta. This is a passion project for Jacoby, his associate told JDA, and he has impressed locally with his commitment to St. Marys’ character.

“One of the statements that really kind of stuck to me was that Mr. Jacoby actually recognizes the history of St. Marys and who we are and what we are and he doesn’t want to take away from that,” city manager Robby Horton said. “He really wants to enhance it and really build on it and take us into the future, maintaining the respect to our community. That to me said a lot about the man of who he was and what he was doing.”

Council member Linda Williams touched on an earlier effort by businessman Chris Ragucci to build a barge port there, triggering a controversial move to rezone the parcel as industrial.

“I can’t express strongly enough how thrilled I am that we’ve left six, seven years ago, the Ragucci regime behind and we’re now in the Jacoby phase,” she said. “This is such a huge and rewarding future that we have ahead of us.”

The county was slated to consider the agreement in July, but postponed so staff could review some final documents, said Coughlin.

St. Marys council also approved an agreement this week that will allow Jacoby to use TAD (tax allocation district) financing. A TAD works by freezing property values within the district at the pre-development levels. As development occurs and property values rise, the additional tax money goes toward public infrastructure within the district, such as sidewalks, utilities and roads.

In other business, council:

  • appointed Tom Lackner as the city’s new fire chief, succeeding Horton who became the city manager this spring. Lackner has been the assistant chief since July 2000.
  • learned that St. Marys will be receiving $291,000 through the CARES Act to reimburse the city for costs related to COVID-19.
  • agreed to sell a 0.68- acre parcel by sealed bid. The property is landlocked between Point Peter and Douglas roads.

Source: Tribune and Georgian