Savannah Riverfront plan remains stalled

15 09 2008


By Johnny Edwards| Augusta Chronicle

The developer of a highly anticipated Savannah riverfront office-condominium-hotel-retail project has said he has yet to buy the six acres of riverfront property from the city — a $1.85 million transaction — because he’s waiting for the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to sign off.

The EPD says, however, the holdup isn’t on its end.

Nikki Haborak, a geologist with the Brownfield Redevelopment Unit, said she asked American Environmental and Construction Services, a consulting company for Bluffton, S.C.-based The Foxfield Co., to add more information to its compliance status report on June 20. She has been waiting for an answer ever since, she said.

Once the process is finished, EPD will issue a limitation of liability letter protecting the property’s new owner from being sued over past contamination, Ms. Haborack said.

Cleanup of the site, a former train yard, has long been finished.

The city’s October 2006 purchase agreement with Foxfield says closing can be delayed until environmental issues are cleared up.

After the sale, if the company doesn’t break ground within two years the city can buy back the land.

Foxfield president Harry Kitchen declined interview requests, and Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Margaret Woodard said she wouldn’t discuss The Watermark either because Mr. Kitchen asked that all information come through him.

Read on here.

Ga. senators navigate oil drilling fight

15 09 2008



The last time Georgia Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson tried to find middle ground in an emotional policy battle before Congress, they quickly abandoned a bipartisan immigration package after getting pilloried from the right.

Now the Republicans are in the thick of a debate over oil drilling, and they’re again fending off criticism from the likes of Rush Limbaugh over a compromise that would raise taxes on oil companies while paving the way for new drilling off the nation’s coasts.

The issue could come to a head this week as energy takes center stage on Capitol Hill and both parties maneuver to take credit for addressing $4-a-gallon gas prices.

Chambliss and Isakson are so far standing firm behind their proposal, which started with backing from a so-called “Gang of 10” and now has 20 Senate sponsors. But as the package gains bipartisan support, it also is drawing complaints from Republicans that it undercuts GOP momentum on the year’s most high-profile political issue weeks before the November elections.

Limbaugh has repeatedly ridiculed the proposal on his conservative radio show, saying House Republicans are pressing for much more ambitious drilling while the Senate proposal “basically cuts (them) off at the knees.”

The senators also have taken heat from congressional colleagues, including from fellow Georgia Republicans. Rep. Phil Gingrey of Marietta has said the senators are engaged in “procedural pleasantries” while Rep. Tom Price of Roswell contended their approach “doesn’t make any sense to me.”

Price said it is “foolhardy” to leave vast coastal areas off limits to drilling and said “tax increases on domestic oil production is counterproductive to bringing new American energy to the market.”

Chambliss and Isakson dismiss the criticism, arguing that voters want Congress to set aside differences and agree on something that will make a difference – even if it requires trade-offs.

“Usually if the extremes are raising cain, it means you’re doing something right,” said Chambliss, who spearheaded the compromise along with Sen. Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat. “We think if anything is going to get 60 votes, it’s going to be our proposal.”

The plan would allow drilling 50 miles off the coasts of Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia, and the Gulf coast of Florida. It would eliminate tax breaks for the oil and gas industry to generate some $30 billion in revenue, with the money used to offset a massive new investment in alternative energy.

Read on here.