The Port Wentworth City Council recently approved a rezoning request for the second phase of the largest warehouse complex in the city’s history. The approved portions of the project, known as the Varnedoe-Wiggins tract, totals 8.2 million square feet, with a possible 3 million to 4 million more coming in a third phase.
The warehouse park is slated to house 13 buildings along with associated auto parking, trailer parking, drainage, utility, access and infrastructure improvements.
According to planning and zoning documents, tenants have not been named yet, but the project is predicted to create between 400 to 800 new jobs.
Council members Linda Smith, Lynwood Griner and Glenn Jones voted Aug. 26 to approve the rezoning from residential agriculture to planned industrial.
Council member Thomas Barbee, who was having technical difficulties during the virtual meeting and could not participate, automatically counted as a yes vote. Mark Stephens was the only member to vote against the project.
A public hearing was not required for the second reading of the project, but area resident LaRay Benton voiced his opposition during general public comments. He mentioned a lawsuit he filed on Aug. 20 in Chatham County Superior Court against the project.
The lawsuit names Port Wentworth City Council and the City of Port Wentworth as the defendants. Benton and his father and mother are the plaintiffs.
The notice of appeal & petition for judicial review alleges that the rezoning for the Varnedoe-Wiggins tract was fraudulently approved by council, citing concerns about water contamination for neighborhood residents and private property rights.
The warehouse property would encompass 275 acres of wetland areas, according to planning documents. A wetlands permit still must to be obtained.
During the first reading of the project, a representative of the Varnedoe-Wiggins Tract property owners said part of the Saussy Canal would have to be relocated as a result of the warehousing.
Benton said that a portion of the Saussy Canal sits on his mother’s property.
The Chatham County Superior Court’s office said the case is still pending review.
Residents on the north side of the city, where the warehouses will be built, say they’re concerned about traffic, noise, pollution and overall quality of life.
“I don’t want a truck stop or a warehouse in my backyard, you wouldn’t want it in yours,” said Tonya Brown, who lives on Berrien Road, a residential street near the proposed property.
City manager Edwin Booth said about 5 million square feet of warehousing already exists in the city. About 15 million to 20 million more square feet are either in the works or being proposed.
“We’re the fastest growing city in the lowcountry,” said Booth, who noted about 3,000 units of housing are expected to be built in the next five years as well.
“It’s changing the texture of our communities,” said Benton. “They’re not looking at the long-term effects on the legacy residents that have been here. We’re not against growth, but you have to do it in the right way.”
Nancy Guan is the general assignment reporter covering Chatham County municipalities. Reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter @nancyguann.