Shortly after John Reed announced his intent in June to mine a 110-acre plot south of downtown Hardeeville, angry letters began to arrive at the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control's Columbia office.
"We are very disturbed about this mining," read one from a couple living near the proposed mine site. "It will be no more than a mosquito haven (and) destroy our property value."
A 12-homeowner petition against the mine soon followed, prompting DHEC to schedule a public hearing in September to address similar concerns emerging from Hardeeville's Oakwood subdivision, near the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge.
To Reed, chief executive officer of Reed Development in Bluffton, that opposition came as a surprise.
"I didn't think we were going to have a problem," he said. "I didn't even know I was a miner."
Reed says his mining permit is needed to build a freshwater lake, around which he hopes to create a residential development on more than 1,100 acres.
He refers to the land, which he owns, as the "Savannah Tract" and envisions a waterside community built around public squares, like its namesake city.
Much about the development remains tentative. It has no name, its construction timetable is undetermined, and a rendering of it is "too conceptual to release at this time," according to an assistant at Reed's Berkeley Hall office.
But Reed says the tract could eventually resemble Bluffton's Hampton Lake community, which he developed several years ago. He also is the original developer of the Colleton River and Belfair communities.
The lake would be more than 100 acres, with an average depth of 20 to 25 feet and stocked with fish to appeal to recreational anglers and boaters -- a departure from the golf-based communities he says have increasingly fallen out of demand.
With Hampton Lake, Reed eschewed a design for which he had initially contracted renowned golf course architects Pete Dye and Tom Fazio, and says he hopes to replicate that water-oriented community's success.
"This water will be deep enough to put in some nice boats," he said. "And with Savannah five minutes away and Bluffton 15 minutes from the back gate ... I think this is a godsend."
Although those closest to the proposed development may not share that sentiment, Reed says their opposition could change once he makes his intentions clear.
"I certainly understand their concerns; I'd be worried myself if I heard a mine was going to be built in my backyard," he said. "But I would think (this development) would add value to their property. ... I hope that our neighbors will welcome us as they learn more about our plans."
He added that what his DHEC application calls "mining" -- digging out sand to build the lake -- would not create noise, dust or traffic problems for the Oakwood subdivision.
Oakwood resident Jarod Ammerman said he had no complaints about the project, citing information in a letter Reed Development sent to residents this summer.
"I haven't heard too much about any development, but I don't think it will be an inconvenience," he said. "It won't be an explosive mine, I know that much."
Hardeeville city manager Bob Nanni said he is unfamiliar with Reed's proposal but added, "I think it could be great for Jasper County."
Reed is optimistic about his newest plans despite developments that have failed or struggled since the economic downturn -- including a proposed casino complex, plans for which are in what its developers call "a holding pattern."
"It's discouraging, but what's happened in Hardeeville and Jasper County has happened in every state," he said. "The market could take off as soon as next spring, and when it does, we'll be ready for it."