Home A $10 million-plus gamble?

A $10 million-plus gamble?

If you build it, they might come. If you don’t, they can’t. That could be one way to sum up the rationale behind the anticipated move by Waynesboro City Council to buy approximately 170 acres of land on the southeast edge of the city for future development as an industrial park.

“We’ve not hidden from this issue. If you engage essentially in the development business as a locality, then you’re taking some kind of risk. Your task, then, really, is, How do you manage risk? How do you gauge what the level of risk is? Having done that, you get to the flip side of, well, if you don’t have something, then you’ve assured your failure. You may indeed fail at this, but if you don’t try at all, you’re assured because you’re not in the game,” Assistant City Manager Mike Hamp told AugustaFreePress.com on Friday.

City Council will vote Monday night on a resolution that would authorize City Manager Mike Hamp to close a $3.475 million deal with Waynesboro Opportunity LLC on the property.

Negotiations between the city and property owner Roger Willetts have reached a point where a closing date has been arranged to take place between Aug. 18 and Sept. 18, according to a staff report on file with the City Council Clerk’s office.

The project is being looked at internally as a “legacy” project, according to Shaw, referring to the projected 20-year buildout, the first five years of which would be spent on engineering and infrastructure development needed to get the property pad-ready.

The city is looking at $5.7 million in additional monies to complete that engineering and infrastructure work and more costs in the low seven-figures that would be associated with the extension of Shenandoah Village Drive to connect Rosser Avenue to Delphine Avenue parallel to Interstate 64.

The final cost to buy and then get the property ready for development will stretch into the $10 million-plus range when all is said and done – a pretty set of pennies against a backdrop of budget cuts that have hamstrung city departments and even cut a day off the city’s Summer Extravaganza this weekend.

Another risk for the city – that they won’t be any more successful in marketing the property than its current owners, who have, to their credit, been trying to land industrial and commercial interests at the location over the past several years.

“Your question is a good one. It’s been one I’ve been asked by City Council members. If Roger Willetts hasn’t been able to develop it by now, why do we think we can? I think to some extent it’s because the model for localities doing an industrial or business park is different than the model for private developers doing it,” said Shaw, detailing how localities have access to certain types of grants and incentive packages that private developers don’t have access to.



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