THOMSON - Tick tock, tick tock.
Several years after McDuffie County and a group of angry residents fought each other tooth-and-nail over a planned industrial park off of Georgia Highway 150, the county is still waiting for the area to be developed.
But, officials expected the delay: the site has had to be built from the ground up. Such a lengthy gap between acquiring the land and developing the land is common for a prospective industrial site.
"In our case we knew we did not have water, we did not have gas, and we did not have sewer," said Chairman of the Thomson-McDuffie Development Authority Riley Stamey. "We knew we were going to have to extend those utilities out there to meet whatever needs might come."
Stamey added that after a sewage system is put in place, prospective buyers will come calling.
An Advance Auto Parts employee works in the companys distribution center near the proposed McDuffie County Industrial Park.
Photo by Elwood Hamilton
"As soon as the infrastructure is complete, you'll see that it will develop much more quickly."
After the county won a lawsuit filed in 1999 by local residents upset by the close proximity of their homes to the prospective site, the future should have looked bright. The site was near a major intersection, the economy was strong, and there was room for more than one prospective facility to be built.
But the lawsuit slowed the preparation process enough that officials missed the economic prosperity window. Now, with the economy limping, companies became more reluctant to expand their operations.
Both Stamey and County Commission Chairman Charlie Newton are quick to point out that the experience of a lawsuit has made them more aware of the effect new industry will have locally.
"We're going to put a 100-foot buffer all around it," said Newton. "When you're coming down (State Highway) 150, basically what you'll see is woodland next to you instead of an industrial park."
County officials want to ensure that any structure built on the property will be attractive.
"We want the park to be pleasant," said Stamey. "We don't want anything that will be obtrusive or unsightly. We are sensitive to the residents in that area." He added that the proposed 100 foot buffer would also "provide a barrier for sound coming from the park."
According to Stamey, tougher environmental restrictions have also slowed the development process.
"The environmental laws have changed," he said. "It's much more restrictive because you have to be so aware of the streams, public waters, and your neighbors. There's lots of engineering and technical aspects that are there now that delays the property."
Though the county has no prospects right now, when the site is finally developed, things will be done the right way, officials said.
"We're going the extra mile to make sure that the park is engineered properly and that we do the right things by the people in the community," said Stamey.
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