Statesboro City Council took two actions Tuesday meant to keep development of roads and other infrastructure moving forward in the area where the South Georgia Tormenta FC soccer stadium and a new Publix supermarket are planned.
First, the council by a 5-0 vote authorized the mayor to apply for a Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant, or LMIG, from the Georgia Department of Transportation to pay for a portion of Georgia Southern University’s planned extension of Akins Boulevard beyond Veterans Memorial Parkway.
This grant is expected to be for about a $1.3 million, including a 30% local match, which City Manager Charles Penny said the university will supply, possibly by funding mitigation of affected wetlands.
“The initial action today is just authorizing us to apply for the funds,” Penny told the mayor and council. “We will be coming back to you for an intergovernmental agreement with Georgia Southern University in order to move it forward. We will also need to come back to you to annex some property.”
LMIG funds can only be supplied to a city or county, so the segment of Akins Extension where the money will be spent needs to be inside the city limits, he explained.
On concept maps, this is shown as the first segment connecting the parkway, or bypass, to the southeastern end of Tormenta Way, the new frontage street that runs parallel to the bypass from Old Register Road. Totaling around a quarter mile, the proposed LMIG-funded segment would reach past Tormenta Way and be extended in a further, roughly half-mile, phase by the university, toward its “South Campus” area.
In all, the Akins Extension is expected to cost more than $5 million, with the state and university to handle the largest portion directly, Penny said after the meeting.
Before council voted, District 5 Councilwoman Shari Barr noted that she had expressed concern about wetlands being affected by the Akins Boulevard Extension.
“This extension is going to go through wetlands, and I always regret that,” Barr said. “But I’ve been assured that it’s being mitigated and we’ll be as gentle as we can on our earth. So, just make note that we care paying attention.”
The vote was 5-0, on a motion from District 1 Councilman Phil Boyum seconded by District 4 Councilman John Riggs.
“We’re excited that the whole project is going to be good, but the city’s focus is that portion that’s been identified,” Mayor Jonathan McCollar said after the meeting. “But with that being said, we’re excited about the university and the state helping to complete that project.”
Second, the council unanimously approved an amendment to the development agreement with private investors in the Old Register Road Tax Allocation District, or TAD. The amendment does not change the $4.75 million total the city authorized the developers, originally BVT Akins LP and J. Edward Akins Farm LP, to be advanced in installments from city-borrowed funds in return for building roads and other public infrastructure.
A Jan. 27 memo from City Attorney Cain Smith to the mayor and council about the revision refers to the developer as JGR, the investment group that is having the stadium built.
Property tax revenue growth, generated by private investment in the stadium, supermarket, restaurants and other mostly commercial properties within the TAD, is set aside to repay the loan. After building the roads, the private developers are also expected to deed these to the city, as spelled out in the agreement.
The city borrowed the $4.75 million from a bank at a low interest rate, similar to that for a bond issuance. But originally, the agreement limited the developer to receiving just two disbursements of $2,375,000 each upon showing invoices for infrastructure work done.
After the developers received the first $2,375,000 reimbursement last year, Tuesday’s action authorizes an “additional requisition” of $1 million without having to wait for the full second $2.375 million to be spent. Instead, the remaining $1.375 million could become a third payment.
Much of Tormenta Way has recently been paved. But the interim $1 million payment was necessary after rain has delayed the process, Darin Van Tassell, lead investor in the project and president of South Georgia Tormenta FC, said in an interview Tuesday.
“Originally it was just two draws, but originally we didn’t plan on three months of rain, and so initially that project was slated to be done by now, but it’s going to get pushed into the future by several months,” he said.
Van Tassell said contractor Mill Creek Construction continues to do “a fantastic job” but that the paving deadline has been extended to April 1 because of the rain. The new traffic light system should also be added soon, he added, since poles are in place at the Old Register Road intersection on Veterans Memorial Parkway.
Another amended passage in the agreement allows the developer to coordinate how the public infrastructure being installed within the TAD “shall intersect with Board of Regents’ proposed extension of Akins Boulevard.” This identifies the Akins Boulevard extension as a project supported by the state university system’s governing board.
In an email Tuesday afternoon, Georgia Southern Vice President for University Communications and Marketing John Lester confirmed the university’s role.
“We are indeed partnering with the city on this effort and are planning to do a section of that road extension on our south campus,” Lester wrote. “We are still working through some internal processes, and still need the necessary approvals, so no timeline has been established.”
The road system, or at least Tormenta Way and its connection via Old Register Road to Veterans Memorial Parkway, has been identified as essential for both the soccer stadium’s construction and that of the Publix supermarket.
South Georgia Tormenta FC will play its home games at Georgia Southern’s soccer stadium in the 2020 season as in past years, but Van Tassell plans for the Tormenta Stadium to be ready for 2021.
“We need to be playing in it in April (2021),” he said Tuesday.