North Augusta City Administrator Todd Glover said the announcement comes in response to rampant speculation and concern about a project that some area residents believe is up for final approval at Monday’s North Augusta City Council meeting.
A third reading of a land development agreement that provides for an extended timeline in the event Project Jackson comes to fruition does go before the council Monday, but the measure will require public approval before advancing, with details of that process and a timeline to be released Wednesday, Glover said.
“There will be opportunities for public input, but there will not be a referendum,” he said. “We’re putting the details out, saying, ‘Here are the details, and if you don’t like it, that’s OK.’ ”
Neither Glover, Mayor Lark Jones, City Councilman Arthur Shealy nor Hammond’s Ferry developer Turner Simkins would deny that Project Jackson involves a facility suitable for minor league baseball, of the type that GreenJackets’ owner Ripken Baseball has long sought to replace Lake Olmstead Stadium in Augusta.
The 44-acre site adjoins Hammond’s Ferry at the 13th Street-Georgia Avenue bridge, diagonally across the Savannah River from the 17-acre former Georgia Golf Hall of Fame tract, where Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver sought, until its transfer to Georgia Health Sciences University, to build a multipurpose stadium for the GreenJackets.
Simkins, who served on Copenhaver’s stadium steering committee, denied being “a participant” in any North Augusta baseball-specific discussions but said the
development of a town-center style complex at the
riverbank was long in the making and long a part of Hammond’s Ferry’s development plans.
“Hammond’s Ferry is designed to be around the town center,” he said, and the development “is going to be the single nucleus of North Augusta.”
What is in the works will complement the 200-acre new urbanist-style Hammond’s Ferry, nearly half of which is dedicated to greenspace, but will become a major attraction, “the only urban destination on the Savannah River that truly is a public destination,” he said.
Jeff Eiseman, the Ripken vice president of sales and marketing and a longtime participant in Augusta’s stadium initiative, also hasn’t denied the baseball stadium rumors. Eiseman promised “lots of things to announce” connected to the club this week but did not return phone calls Thursday or Friday.
The development allows for construction of a parking deck and will involve numerous parties including Aiken County and the Aiken County schools, Glover said. Project Jackson developers will be introduced to the public Wednesday, he said.
The agreement locks in zoning at the site and provides for North Augusta to complete a road and a riverwalk-style park on the water’s edge, whether Project Jackson occurs or not.
One of two city council members to vote against the agreement, Shealy said it gives Hammond’s Ferry too much leverage over the city and is insufficient to govern the arrival of Project Jackson, which he said “will be several degrees of magnitude greater” than the document indicates.