'Where the market is'

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St. James Bay plans expansion

St. James Bay, the two-decade-old golf resort development on the eastern side of the county, is about to get bigger.

County commissioners gave the go-ahead March 16 for the planned unit development to move forward with adding an additional 16 one-bedroom golf villas and a 72-unit boutique inn.

The permission drew no opposition after County Planner Mark Curenton told commissioners that the mixed-use residential development, which is laced with a par-72, 6,600-yard public golf course, the only one in the county, had received permission from the state for an even larger density on its 378 acres when it was first proposed and approved more than 20 years ago.

St. James Bay, on the former site of the Anneewakee Inner Harbor Hospital Site, had been granted a maximum development of 575 residential lots or “units” at that time.

Commissioner Bert Boldt recused himself from the vote, since he leases a unit at St. James Bay.

Commissioners Smokey Parrish and Noah Lockley both spoke out in favor of the expansion. “That should put some people to work,” said Lockley.

“The original plans had a lot more than what they’re considering now,” said Commissioner Jessica Ward.

Curenton presented evidence that attested to Carrabelle being able to handle any additional water and sewer demand. Jim Waddell, with Inovia Consulting Group, provided documentation that the expanded project would meet and not exceed existing parking and traffic standards.

John Green, president of Chicago, Illinois-based Lynnwood Development, St. James’ owner, said the boutique inn will probably not be on the drawing board until at least 2022.

“We will probably look at that spring of 2022 and see if the money is available and we will proceed to building the inn,” he said.

For right now, the urgency is adding to the four villas that St. James Bay now has.

“We’ll get 12 started as soon as possible. We want to get going around June 1, and we want to have them ready for people January 2022,” Green said. “We’re talking to two different contractors, and we’ll hopefully have that nailed down in 30 days.”

The one-bedroom, roughly 650-square-foot cottages have proven popular with people coming down for a golf, shopping or eco-touring weekend.

“It’s a perfect product for them, a little bigger than a hotel room but smaller than a condo,” Green said. “We have people come weekly, for the month. We’ve had people rent for two years. We need more units; we’re booked all the time.

“When this whole thing was approved, I don’t think anyone realized what the lodging demand was going to be in the area,” he said. “It wasn’t (originally) designed with a lodging component, and what we’re doing is saying ‘this is clearly where the market is.’”

Green said St. James has doubled its revenue from 2017. “Overall last year, where we ended up, golf had its best year ever in rounds and revenue,” he said.

“The restaurant was down because we went two months with take outs,” he said. “By the end of the year we were pretty much doing what we did before. People were a little slow to come back, and so the restaurant suffered over the year.

“The lodging was strong and continued to be strong,” Green said. “We had two tough months, and then things started to pick up.”

He also pointed to four building permits secured last month to build single family homes, with at least three under construction.

“That’s another sea change from a year ago,” Green said. “I think you’re going to see a lot more houses coming up.”

This article originally appeared on The Apalachicola Times: 'Where the market is'

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