A tract of Richmond County-owned land in Columbia County overlooking a bluff along the Savannah River might not be available for a purchase by Columbia County after all.
Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross said some city commissioners in Augusta told him they do not want to part with the 22-acre parcel near Savannah Rapids Pavilion because selling it would not help them offset their budget deficit.
The Augusta Commission voted in April to sell 11 city-owned parcels, including the Savannah River tract, to offset a $3.8 million city budget shortfall.
But Cross said he was told in past conversations with Augusta leaders that revenue from a potential sale would go to the city's water department and not into the general fund.
Columbia County leaders have been looking at that tract since a possible sale was announced. Cross said he was scheduled to meet with Augusta City Administrator Fred Russell on Friday and would ask about the tract among other matters.
"We would like to have it and we could make use of it in a number of ways," Cross said, adding that additional parking for Savannah Rapids Pavilion is needed.
The tract also has caught the eye of Columbia County Convention and Visitor's Bureau Executive Director Beda Johnson, who said in a Wednesday meeting of the Development Authority of Columbia County that the property and Wildwood Park are two ideal sites for hotel and resort development.
Johnson said Columbia County has an abundance of recreational resources with Thurmond Lake and the Savannah River, which attract local, regional and national sports tournaments, but the county lacks hotel rooms near those areas.
During April's Pride of Augusta Citgo Bassmasters Elite Series Tournament, Columbia County lost hotel business to neighboring McDuffie and Richmond counties because anglers and guests were accustomed to staying at familiar hotels in those counties.
Johnson said Columbia County could use a resort facility on the lake, adding that Wildwood Park would be an ideal location for a 400-room resort facility.
"We have a lot of competition in this area," Johnson said.
Lincoln County, she said, is rapidly developing subdivisions on the lake and is working on a trade and visitors exhibition center.
Development Authority member Pete Brodie, a long-time proponent of such a development at Wildwood Park, said developers in the past have been scared off from such a project because the park land is leased from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Columbia County Community and Leisure Services Director Barry Smith said Thursday that the term of the Wildwood Park lease is 20 years and was renewed last year.
Though renewing that lease is not a problem, developers would prefer a longer lease term when making such an investment of capital as building a resort, Cross said.
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