A new sewer under Settlement Road in Martinez is almost sure to bring dramatic changes to the neighborhood fronting one of the busiest sections of Bobby Jones Expressway.
The area, just inside Columbia County, is in line for extensive redevelopment. Residents of the area say they have been approached by real estate agents who have offered $100,000 or more for their small, frame homes - some of which are valued at less than $30,000 in county tax records.
Although this section of Bobby Jones Expressway is in one of the more heavily developed areas of Columbia County, the section between Golden Corral and Home Depot has not had sewer service until now. Homes and businesses have had to use septic tanks, which has largely prevented new development. The section along Bobby Jones Expressway is the home of about 20 small businesses, including Harry's Equipment Co., Rick's Paint and Body, Mulherin Lumber and a small strip shopping center.
L.D. Waters said he has been trying to get sewer service to the area since he bought the strip shopping center adjacent to Home Depot about two-and-a-half years ago.
"I knew they didn't have sewerage. I've been in the development business long enough to know you can get sewerage. You may have to pay for it yourself, but you can get sewerage," Waters said.
He said the owners of businesses along Bobby Jones agreed to pay half the $75,000 cost for the sewer extension with the county paying the other half. "But we're tickled to death" to get the sewer extension, Waters said.
Now that the properties have sewer service, Waters said, the area will probably be "the most expensive in Columbia County."
He said he paid $500,000 per acre for his three acres, and the value will probably rise with the completion of the sewer line.
If the sewer passes the county's inspection, businesses and residents can connect to the new sewer immediately after Memorial Day.
Harry L. McGahee Jr., the president of Harry's Equipment Co., said the two 35-year-old bathrooms at his business are being remodeled in preparation of connecting to the sewer line.
He said he had to bring portable toilets onto the property for the staff to use because the septic tank was unreliable.
"It's been aggravating, especially for the ladies," McGahee said.
He said he has heard the talk about possible redevelopment of the area after the sewer work.
"If somebody comes by and offers me enough money, I'm gone," McGahee said, who has been at the Bobby Jones' location for 14 years.
Waters said he, too, would sell his property for the right price.
Kirk Harrington, the owner of the Aladdin Travel, said that it will be nice to have bathrooms that work properly.
"It's been a constant battle," he said. "In the last three years, we've been backed up at least 10 times."
He said he realizes that the new sewer line could mean they will have to move from the travel agency's location in Water's shopping center some day.
"We've got contingency plans in place," Harrington said.
He said he has been contacted by real estate agents about possible new locations for his office.
Brenda Videtto, the owner of AACE Flags and More, which is also in the strip shopping center, said she looks forward to connecting her business to the sewer line.
"I think things will be a lot better with sewer," Videtto said.
Laverne Dunn, a resident of Settlement Road, said a real estate agent came to her home about two years ago and offered her more than $100,000 for her property. She said she will sell if the right price is offered.
Juanita Lowe, another resident of Settlement Road, said a real estate agent offered her $100,000 about two years ago. She also said she would sell for enough money to buy another house she likes "and a few dollars to live on."
Neither woman said they planned to connect to the sewer line any time soon because of the expense. Lowe said she was told it would cost $2,000 to connect. "I just don't have the money," she said.
Columbia County Commissioner Jim Whitehead spearheaded the effort to get the sewer built.
"To me it was not very good that the busiest part of Columbia County did not have sewer," Whitehead said.
He said he did not know why that stretch of Bobby Jones Expressway was left without sewer service for so long. But, he said the area near Golden Corral was connected to sewer lines because the restaurant required it.
"The neighbors around there, the ones who front on Bobby Jones, have been trying to get that done for a good while, and ... finally they got together and came up with the funding to get it handled at a very good price," Whitehead said. "It's a win-win situation for Columbia County, for the businesses on Bobby Jones ... and the residents who live on the back side of Settlement Road."
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