Originally created 06/05/06

Chatham building boom

POOLER, Ga. - Drive along Jimmy Deloach Parkway on a workday, and you'll see the dust clouds rising as big trucks rumble onto the road from construction sites.

They're hauling dirt for houses and town homes that make up many of the 408 building permits Pooler issued for single-family housing last year - houses and town homes valued at more than $57 million.

Through April of this year, Pooler issued an additional 220 permits for houses and town homes, representing $26.5 million in investments.

"Barring a national recession, I see more of the same," said former Pooler mayor and current Republican state Rep. Buddy Carter.

But that growth doesn't come without a price. The challenge, he said, is "to keep caught up" with essential services such as water and sewer, highways and public safety.

"And as we have more residents, you'll see more of a strain put on the infrastructure and the public services," Mr. Carter said.

The story of Pooler's growth began with the availability of water.

In 1997, Pooler City Council agreed to spend $1.2 million to link a water main into Savannah's system and to share the cost of boring a line underneath Interstate 95.

As Councilman Stevie Wall recalls, the city figured it had to average 60 new homes per year over a 20-year span if the new water main was to pay for itself.

That's when the boom started.

Pooler's decision to install the waterline was a big risk that paid bigger dividends, said Mr. Carter, who was mayor at the time.

What's happening in Pooler is part of a broader West Chatham housing boom.

In Port Wentworth, north of Interstate 95, Sivica Communities Inc. is building Rice Hope - as many as 4,500 houses and apartments in the next 10-15 years. Along Georgia Highway 30, developer Fred Williams's Newport and Lakeshore subdivisions will add about 1,700 new houses over the next several years.

And along Georgia Highway 204, Savannah plans to extend water and sewer lines to the New Hampstead development, where builders and developers are buying up roughly 4,000 acres from International Paper.

Ultimately, 11,275 residential structures are planned for New Hampstead. Developers there also have targeted another 114 acres for businesses.

Along Jimmy Deloach Parkway, work has begun on The Farm at Morgan Lakes - with 801 houses and town homes planned by build-out - and the Hunt Club, with 715 units planned.

The Farm, developed by D.R. Horton, is advertising houses in the $180,000-$300,000 range - and town homes starting at $140,000.

Crews have erected a grain silo. An old-fashioned windmill is planned. An agricultural motif runs through the development.

"We try to create a certain community appeal," said Joel Lewis, the Savannah area manager for construction at D.R. Horton.


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