Jasper County shifts focus to Exit 3 with port resolution

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Jasper County Council amended a resolution concerning the future Jasper Ocean Terminal at its March 2 meeting. [Shellie Murdaugh/Jasper County Sun Times]

Posted March 22, 2020

Jasper County Council has amended a resolution that calls for possible legal action against the South Carolina Ports Authority in an effort “to work with the powers that be instead of fighting with them,” Councilman Tom Johnson said this month.

Council voted unanimously March 2 to remove from the resolution a deadline after which it planned to sue the Ports Authority if certain conditions concerning the Jasper Ocean Terminal were not met.

The original resolution instructed the county attorney to file a lawsuit no later than March 2. After the amendment, it now leaves the timeframe open.

County officials have been frustrated by a perceived lack of progress in planning the future port on the Savannah River that will be jointly operated by South Carolina and Georgia.

Council first threatened to sue when the S.C. Ports Authority changed the expected date to start construction from 2025 to 2035 because of increased capacity at the Charleston port. One of the conditions in the resolution is that the first phase of the port be completed by 2028, when the Georgia Ports Authority is expected to need more capacity.

“We had a resolution that had cited all the empty and broken promises, stating that if we had not made significant progress by March 2, we would have moved forward,” Johnson said.

“The resolution is very simple. It just took the deadline off and replaced it with a statement to monitor the progress, and if there is going to be progress, to work with the powers that be instead of fighting with them,” he said.

Johnson said the State Infrastructure Bank was scheduled to vote today on funding for the planned Interstate 95 Exit 3 in Hardeeville, which could provide an important link to the future port. He said council will vote on whether to pursue litigation sometime after the bank’s decision.

“This is not trading the port for Exit 3,” he said. “It is Exit 3 as a part of the overall port project. If they are going to do that, maybe they will actually do some of the other things they promised.”

The Jasper County School District recently passed a resolution supporting the Exit 3 project after a request by Hardeeville and county officials.

Hardeeville announced Thursday that a company has agreed to develop RiverPort Park, a tract of more than 2,500 acres on the Savannah River that is bisected by I-95.

“We view RiverPort as one of the great mixed-use development opportunities in South Carolina,” said Ben Gramling, president of Charleston-based developer Gramling Brothers. “Jasper County and Hardeeville are the front gate of the Lowcountry and the commercial and residential development opportunities in this important region are endless.”

Development has already started in the RiverPort development on U.S. 17, with North Signal preparing a groundbreaking for 500 acres. Officials said the development will eventually stress nearby interstate Exits 5 and 8.

Hardeeville city manager Michael Czymbor said Exit 3 would “provide safe, new infrastructure to support intermodal activity, moving freight and eliminating bottleneck conditions. Approximately two-thirds of the cost of the interchange and associated cross roadway will be paid for with local funds and landowner contributions.”

Source: blufftontoday