The addition of a new “Exit 3” and more development along I-95 in Hardeeville moved one step closer to reality this week.
Jasper County Council members approved a resolution that outlines the county’s role in the $82 million project being planned in conjunction with the City of Hardeeville and developer SLF III-Hardeeville LLC, a subsidiary of Stratford Land Fund.
“I think that whole area in the next 10 years is really going to see a lot of commercial growth,” said state Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort. “I think the next 10 years is going to be a very good time for commercial and manufacturing growth in Jasper and Colleton and Hampton counties.”
The five members of the Jasper County legislative delegation also backed a resolution earlier this month supporting the Exit 3 project. That resolution said the approval and construction of the exit could create 24,000 jobs and have a $3 billion annual impact.
The idea for adding an interchange along the heavily traveled route is not a new one. The Jasper Ocean Terminal Board voted to support the project in March 2009, according to reports on the South Carolina Ports website.
Currently, the South Carolina interchange along I-95 that is closest to the Georgia state line is at the 5-mile marker. The Purrysburg Road overpass crosses I-95 at the place where Exit 3 would be constructed.
The resolution approved by Jasper officials on Monday night is a memorandum of understanding involving the county, Hardeeville and SLF III. Texas-based SLF III owns a 5,136-acre tract that includes the Riverport Business Park, home to a 25,000-square-foot Waste Management facility.
The resolution says the parties involved will seek funding from the State Infrastructure Bank, including a $28 million grant and a $28 million loan. SLF III-Hardeeville would provide the local match of approximately $26 million required by the grant.
The loan would be paid back through the creation of a tax-increment financing district. In such an arrangement, property taxes collected within that district are used to pay back the loan.
Jasper County administrator Andrew Fulghum said that, if the tax proceeds are not enough to cover the loan, the private company would pay the difference.
The application deadline for State Infrastructure Bank funding is Aug. 1, and, according to Davis, an announcement about which projects would receive funding is expected before the end of the year.
If Exit 3 funding is approved, “I think you could see construction start as early as next year,” Davis said.
In a 2018 presentation, officials touted the exit as providing an additional evacuation route in the event of a hurricane.
Still, there’s no getting around the exit’s relationship to the proposed Jasper Ocean Terminal.
“They are two different things, but they are related,” Davis said, explaining that development related to Exit 3 would support the need for the port.
Last year, the South Carolina Ports Authority pushed back the timeline for the port’s first phase from 2025 to 2035. However, last month, the Legislature approved an $8 million budget allocation for the port.
About $5 million of that amount is meant to purchase acreage along I-95 known as the Sherwood Tract. That land purchase is closer to the existing I-95 Exit 5 and is separate from the plans for the added Exit 3, Davis said.
He said the remaining $3 million is for permitting and engineering work at the site of the proposed port.