Even though he’s only played one round of golf in his entire life, Paul Fletcher has overseen the development of six communities with golf courses in Southeast United States, not including the one coming to South Bryan County.
A groundbreaking ceremony for WaterWays Township, Fletcher’s latest project, is slated for 11 a.m. Friday at Lot 43 in the subdivision near Red Bird Creek, off Oak Level Road. The ceremony will celebrate the construction of the first of seven homes, which are expected to be finished by May.
The gated community will have a maximum of 3,000 homes. The homes can be bought either pre-sale or be custom made, said Vance Askew, the marketing director for WaterWays.
“It’s a very flexible process,” he said.
Waterways Township is geared toward retirees, people who can afford second homes and people looking to raise their kids in an area with a strong school system, Fletcher said.
Even though the economy is lagging, he said the time is right to build and to sell since the market is slowly coming back.
“We think those markets will return,” he said. “They’ll return slowly, but within three to four years, they will return.”
Askew added that WaterWays Township will be a long-term project and it will be a number of years before it is fully developed.
“This is really going to be a landmark community for the coast,” he said.
Fletcher said homes will cost anywhere from $250,000 and $3 million, with lots ranging from one-third of an acre to more than an acre.
Three Richmond Hill construction companies, Synergy Designer Homes, C. Pickett Enterprises Inc. and Grant Homes, and one Savannah company, CE Hall Construction Inc., have been tapped to build the homes, according to Askew.
Fletcher, the owner of Fletcher Management Co. of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., that is developing the project, said he chose this spot in Bryan County because he thought it was the prettiest land he’d ever seen.
About five years ago, he got a call from a broker inviting him to tour the 2,300 acres near Red Bird Creek.
Fletcher drove up from his home in Ponte Verde Beach to the site and hopped the fence around the area. He walked more than 3 miles along Cottonham Trail, and old road used to transport timber, until he found the marsh.
“I just fell in love with it,” he said. “I just thought it was the prettiest piece of land in the Southeast.”
Fletcher bought the land a year later and started lining up the proper permits to start development and building. The property was zoned as a planned development unit, or PDU, in 2007, and Fletcher secured approval for home construction from Bryan County commissioners in August.
The community will be very “amenity rich,” Fletcher noted. There will be a swimming and fitness center and a manmade lake system, in which residents can canoe, kayak and fish in.
WaterWays will also feature a “village center and clubhouse,” which will be built on a hill constructed from dirt dredged to make the winding 3-mile lake.
An 18-hole championship golf course, designed by Tom Fazio, a leading architect in the golf course industry, will also be featured in WaterWays Township. Fletcher also developed the Marsh Landing/Sawgrass development in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., the home of the PGA Tour and The Players Championship.
There will also be a public-access marina, with 200 slips of dry storage and two 100-foot launching piers, Askew said.
The marina drew fire in 2009, when the state Coastal Marshlands Protection Committee issued a permit for the dock. Center for a Sustainable Coast, a nonprofit environmental group, and a nearby resident challenged the permit in court, arguing the permit violated the Heritage Trust Act and the Constitution of Georgia. Askew said the two sides reached an agreement and settled in mid-2010.
“That legal issue is over,” he said.
Askew said Fletcher is very passionate about preserving nature in WaterWays Township, especially the old oak trees there that give the property the quintessential southern atmosphere. Some roads were planned around the oak trees and some 100-year-old oaks were actually uprooted and moved to a different spot in the development.
“Rather than lose them, we moved them,” Askew said.
Fletcher said his management company has a reputation for preserving flora in its marshland development properties.
“If there’s one comment we’ve consistently gotten, it’s ‘Gee, (they’ve) saved the trees,’” he said.
Fletcher said a swath of land where the Cottenham Plantation used to stand will be preserved. While surveying the site, Fletcher said workers found artifacts, some remnants of brick foundations, there.