Big ideas, but no solid plans yet for Hardeeville exit off I-95

dburley@islandpacket.comJanuary 1, 2014 

Jasper County and Hardeeville officials have big plans for the land surrounding Exit 8 off Interstate 95.

In recent months, developments including hotels, restaurants and even a hockey rink have been discussed for the more than 1,750 acres where U.S. 278 meets I-95.

City and county planners agree that something is needed to capture travelers passing through the area, which sees more than 29 million motorists a year, according to county data.

"The traffic count is so high there, we certainly know it needs to be cleaned up and given more opportunity," Hardeeville planning director Brana Snowden said.

"We want (travelers) to stop at that point," said LeNolan Edge, director of Jasper County planning and building services. "It's better than them continuing down 95 and taking potential revenue to another county or state."

But other than cutting grass, installing signs and planting shrubs, officials and engineers have been mum about what exactly they seek for the potentially lucrative area.

"The main thing here is to spur economic development," Edge said. "We've spoken to some potential prospects, but obviously they go unnamed. We just see this as a continuing process."

To help the process, the city and the county commissioned a $110,000 study to investigate business possibilities, the results of which are scheduled to be released this month.

"It's not a situation where there will be shovels in the ground, necessarily, but this is the first step to making this place a destination," Edge said.

Kevin Farruggio, a landscape architect for ROI Real Estate, a Bluffton firm administering the study, said the study will look at roads, wetlands and utilities and see how they fit into business development. It also will look into the possibility of paving frontage and outer roads -- none of which should affect the 75 to 100 property owners in the area, he said.

"We've taken all the plans that have been discussed to date and put them on one master plan," Farruggio said. "It's a visioning plan really, how it should be developed over time."

Planners said the outline was still in the draft stage, and they would not provide details.

When asked Tuesday to provide a rough-draft master plan presented to the Jasper County planning commission Oct. 8, Farruggio and Edge said they did not have immediate access to the plan.

Development in the area by the interstate has long been discussed.

Hotels, restaurants, office buildings and medical facilities have been suggested, said Frank Turano, Lowcountry regional manager for Alliance Consulting Engineers, another firm working on the study.

One proposal for the area comes from a website designed by a firm that identifies itself as Intrepid Sports Development LLC.

The website lists attractions such as a theme park, a "four-star space hotel," an indoor water park, an ice hockey and skating rink, and a "quaint New Orleans Village" with a boutique.

Attempts Tuesday to reach those listed as contacts for the development, known as Jasper's Crossing, were unsuccessful.

Snowden, the Hardeeville planner, said she has heard of the development idea, but no one has approached the city or the county with official plans.

Follow reporter Dan Burley at twitter.com/IPBG_Dan.

Related content: Jasper's Crossing

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