Jasper County officials hit restart button on upscale Mackay Point development

dburley@islandpacket.comJuly 3, 2014 

STAFF GRAPHIC

After years of inaction, work might finally begin on land set aside for an upscale residential development in Jasper County.

Jasper County Council agreed this week to move forward with preliminary work to put roads and other infrastructure at The Settings at Mackay Point.

Officials say it's the first step in a long-term plan to build roads, sewer lines and water systems on the property along the Pocotaligo River so homes can be built. Electrical and stormwater work is also needed.

Owners of the more than 250 lots have waited for such infrastructure since 2008, when the community's developer went bankrupt, council members said.

"We need to give these people what they should have had all along," council Chairwoman Barbara Clark said. "I believe it's our obligation."

Council will pay for the $95,000 preliminary work with bond money it was awarded after a legal battle with the developer and a bonding company.

The company, Bond Safeguard Insurance Co., issued five bonds to the developer worth about $6.6 million, according to court records.

But the developer, The Settings Development Cos. LLC, went bankrupt before the project was complete. The county sued the developer and bonding company in 2011 and has received four out of five bonds, worth more than $4 million, according to county administrator Andrew Fulghum. The county expects to receive the fifth bond this summer.

All of the money must be used to pay for the infrastructure, he said. However, the funds might not cover the entire cost of road, water and sewer construction for the community, according to council members.

Clark said the county might do the work in phases, concentrating first on the areas where most of the lots have been sold.

"No matter what, we won't be using taxpayer money," if the bond funds run out, Councilman Henry Etheridge said.

Once the poster child of rural residential development, Mackay Point has sat untouched since 2008.

The development was billed as a ritzy community that would blend marsh and wetland with elegant homes, boat docks and hiking trails, according to a New York Times article in 2007. Some vacant lots sold for $800,000, the article said.

But the economic downturn hit, and Mackay Point's developer went belly-up. No homes were ever built. The land has changed hands several times since, and is currently owned by Robert Wolfson, who helped develop Bull Point in Seabrook.

Council members said they have heard frequently from the more than 100 property owners eager to move forward with the project.

"Much of this was supposed to be completed seven or eight years ago," Clark said. "These people got hoodwinked, and that's why this time, the county is stepping in."

Follow reporter Dan Burley on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Dan.

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