A part owner of the Kilkenny fisherman’s co-op said he intends to sue Bryan County and its commissioners for $10 million if a proposed Waterways Township marina near Red Bird Creek comes to fruition.
William Butler of the Bryan County Fisherman’s Co-op is alleging the project will both devalue his neighboring Kilkenny marina project as well as illegally infringe on historic preserved marshlands.
County Administrator Phil Jones, on the other hand, said the county is following the proper legal procedures in this project and the Township marina should not devalue Butler’s plans for an additional marina.
Jones also said the Army of Corps of Engineers just denied the project, but a plan to reapply is in the works. He said he just received word of the denial and he does not know what issues were raised by the Corps.
Butler has hired attorney and former Georgia governor Roy E. Barnes of Marietta to handle the case.
In a letter addressed to the Bryan County Commissioners, which names several no longer serving on the board, Barnes accuses the county of participating in a private development, Waterways Township, "to allow water access over an historic preserve for the sole and exclusive benefit of a private company…and therefore harm the adjoining property."
The Georgia Department of Resources has yet to grant the permit for the Township marina project. Barnes said he is waiting to see if the permit goes through or if Bryan County withdraws before commencing with the multi-million dollar suit.
"It’s really quite shocking what Bryan County is trying to do here," Barnes said. "This land was set aside for historic preservation, but Bryan County is saying ‘we don’t care what the law says; we’re going to develop it anyway.’ The area is clearly outlined as one that is never to be disturbed."
Barnes said the county, which is working in conjunction with Savannah Landholdings, LLC on this project, does not have the right to apply for a DNR permit for their proposed marina. He said the status of the land could only be changed by an act of General Assembly along with permission from the governor.
Bryan County Commission Chairman Jimmy Burnsed said the proposed marina does not propose boat traffic to go through the protected marshlands, but rather has plans for a lift that would take the boats out of freshwater, over the marsh and into Redbird Creek.
"The proposal they (Savannah Landholdings) have come up with does not disturb the marsh," Burnsed said. "DNR has come out two or three times to look at the plans and, to my knowledge, they have yet to express any concern about it."Butler said the plans for his marina, which includes a 3,000 square foot marina, a dry dock and condos, have received approval from the county’s planning and zoning office. He said his project, which he began planning four years ago, has not broken ground due to economic reasons but "it’s ready to roll as soon as the economy picks up. If the housing market hadn’t gone south, it would’ve been built by now."
In addition to sending a letter to the county, Barnes also sent a letter to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources on behalf of Butler, voicing similar concerns.
Burnsed said this is but one feature to the massive Waterways Township development.
An attempt to reach Savannah Landholdings LLC manager Paul Fletcher was unsuccessful, but Burnsed said the company has already invested around $110 million into the overall project and it will not be hindered if the marina proposal is denied.
Waterways Township, formerly known as Genesis Point, encompasses 2,200 acres of development in south Bryan, including nearly 3,000 residential units.