Now, the property’s new developers, the Waterfront Group, will move ahead with plans to fill the 2,000-acre property with 400 homes, up from the original plan of 200 homes. According to Commission Chairman Brian McMahan, the agreement is good news for the area’s tourism- and second-home-centered economy, which has been struggling mightily since the economic recession triggered a collapse of the real estate market.
“It’s a good indicator the economy is moving in the right direction,” McMahan said. “I’m excited for that development. It appears they’ve got some good plans for the future, and I wish them the best.”
The revised agreement would maintain the 700-acre conservation easement and 204 acres of additional green space outlined in the original plan. However, the golf course would give way to construction of cluster-style homes. Once completed, the development would include 172 of these homes — built in groups on small-acreage lots surrounded by green space — as well as 228 larger, estate-style lots.
Since 2008, only 30 lots have been sold and six homes constructed, but Waterfront is optimistic about the future. According to Elliott Harwell, of Waterfront, the company expects to reach full build-out in three to five years.
A public hearing on the revised agreement earlier this month drew four speakers, two voicing support for the expansion and two expressing caution based on Cashiers’ history of getting burned by unscrupulous developers during the recession. Those speakers worried about whether Waterfront would live up to its promises when it came to providing necessities like roads, water and septic facilities.
However, county commissioners expressed confidence in Waterfront’s reputation and track record, and county code compliance officer John Jeleniewski affirmed that the developer had met all state requirements for moving ahead with its plans.
“I’m pleased with what they presented,” McMahan said. “It seems very reasonable and it’s an attempt to try and provide the kind of community that fits in with the area, so I think it’s a good thing.”