With new development comes the need for new roads, schools, and emergency services.
And when it comes to recently announced plans for the East Argent project in Hardeeville, those needs are huge.
Paying for them can sometimes mean taxpayers foot the bill.
With aims of bringing 9,500 homes, 1.5 million square feet of commercial space, and about 20,000 new residents to the city, the project is expected to generate more than $110 million in development fees to be used for infrastructure improvements.
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An agreement between the city and property owner Argent Land Holdings LLC proposes to raise those funds from builders over a period of 20 years.
That should let taxpayers off the hook, officials say.
“There was a lot of good faith negotiations (with the developer) over the past months to make sure the burden (of funding infrastructure) won’t be on the shoulders of the existing taxpayers,” Hardeeville city manager Michael Czymbor said last week.
He called the development agreement, originally approved in 2005 and now in need of amending by the Hardeeville City Council, a “win-win between the city and the developer.”
City planning director Brana Snowden told members of the Hardeeville Planning Commission earlier this month that “those (development) fees — for fire stations, for police — are very important to making sure as everything develops ... we have services available and the funds to create those services.”
Because of the massive impact the development will have on critical infrastructure and services, Hardeeville Mayor Harry Williams stressed last week the importance careful and thorough planning.
You can see evidence of the start of that planning process in the development agreement documents.
“All the infrastructure needs are spelled out in the contract, the impact fees are all designated within the contract,” Williams said.
The largest portion of development fees — nearly $80 million — will be dedicated to road construction and improvement projects, documents show.
Argent Land Holdings will be responsible for the completion of a central loop road through the middle of the roughly 7,300 acre property. Once finished, that road will connect S.C. 170 to Argent Boulevard near U.S. 278.
“The loop road is a very important thing for the city of Hardeeville and the region,” Snowden said. “ ... We all know the (traffic) problems on Argent Boulevard, so this is certainly a good thing.
The road is expected to be completed in six phases. The first three phases are already built and connect Argent Boulevard to the Hampton Pointe neighborhood.
The next portion of the roadway will connect to S.C. 170 and run through an parcel planned as a future commercial area, Jeff Coggin with Argent Land Holdings LLC told city planning board members earlier this month.
Each of the remaining phases of the loop road are estimated to take between one and two years to complete, he said.
In addition to the loop road, transportation improvements spelled out in the development agreement include intersection improvements — deceleration and left-turn lanes, traffic signals, roadway widening — at a series of intersections both Argent Boulevard and S.C. 170.
In the center of the East Argent parcel, the property owners have designated a 81-acre site to be turned over to the city for a series of public uses.
The public facilities site “gives us a good amount of space for parks, police, fire, and those types of uses,” Snowden said.
Construction of new facilities such as a police station or school would be paid for using development fees.
But the city — and it’s taxpayers — would be responsible for staffing and operations costs, documents show.
By the numbers
The agreement between the city and property owner Argent Land Holdings LLC proposes to raise $110.65 million in development fees over 20 years for the following uses:
- Roads: $79.25 million
- Police: $6.25 million
- Fire: $6.25 million
- Schools: $7.5 million
- Library: $1.5 million
- Parks: $9.9 million