Monday, November 24, 2008

Rural town ambivalent about change Jafza could bring

By GENE ZALESKI, T&D Staff WriterSunday, November 23, 2008

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ELLOREE -- The Town of Elloree's Web site contains the slogan: "Small Town, Big Ideas."

But some are hoping this small, rural town will be able to keep its attractiveness as a big idea takes hold of nearby Santee.

"I would love for my town to stay an agricultural town," said Keitt Brandenburg, owner of Brandenburg Radio Service. He says he is not too happy about a foreign company investing in the area and bringing more traffic and people to the sleepy town.

"I would not have sold an inch of land if it belonged to me," he said.

Jafza South Carolina, a subsidiary of Jafza International, announced last week its plans to develop a $600 million logistics-industrial park near Santee. The 1,322-acre, five-phase park will include light manufacturing, a public intermodal facility, a truck plaza, warehousing and mixed-use offices and commercial spaces.

The Dubai-based company estimates the project could create about 3,700 direct jobs in the county over the next 12 years and between 1,500 to 2,500 indirect spin-off jobs.

Elloree Mayor Van Stickles says he is all in favor of the Jafza project.

"We want to be an attractive town and a nice place for people to live," he said. "On the economic side, it will make us more attractive for businesses to come and make the downtown area even more alive than it is now."

Stickles, who has lived in Elloree since 1979, said he has seen the town come full circle. Its ongoing downtown revitalization project has created an eye-pleasing town for potential investors.

"We want to be good neighbors to the Jafza project," he said. "We want them to be good neighbors to us."

But Brandenburg, a self-described "old timer," said in his estimation the town peaked about 25 years ago and has declined ever since. He says more people bring more crime.

Stickles said he understands the concerns about the project's potential impact on the Elloree community.

"We could double in size and we would still be a small town," he said. "There is a percentage of people attracted to the small town life that we offer. This is still what we want. We will always have our own identity being Elloree."

Bob Hickman, a longtime Elloree resident and real estate agent, said "At this point in time, there would not be an overwhelming sentiment, not a majority sentiment, of people who would want to see major transformations in Elloree."

"Not that they are against growth but there will be a continuous concern ... amongst the people who lived there and spent their life in that area," he said. "Some people are concerned about the kind of growth that would result in substantial changes to Elloree and their lifestyle."

As a real estate agent, Hickman said he has seen interest in the Elloree market growing.

"I personally know of developer-type of people who are more and more looking at Elloree as a place where they can see a lot of potential and even more of a potential in the future," Hickman said. "Elloree's future largely relates to the revitalization of the downtown area and the historic areas."

As part of this development, earlier this year Hickman and Phil Roland partnered in the planned development of a 32-acre tract of land located on the eastern edge of town. Barkley Place will be a gated community with 60 two- and three-bedroom homes.

Hickman said the engineering and infrastructure work on the Barkley Place project are ongoing with an active marketing campaign planned for the spring of 2009.

"We have more people in the last few months inquiring about the possibility of Elloree," Hickman said, noting most of the property in the Santee area has already been tied down. "It is a natural situation ... that people start looking beyond the immediate vicinity of Santee. It is recognized that Elloree is an attractive area in itself."

Corner Store Elloree Diner owner Raj Patel said he is keeping an open mind and cautiously optimistic attitude toward the Jafza project and its potential ripple effects on the town.

"I have not seen a change," Patel said when asked about the town over the past two years since his arrival. "But I do think people will be able to get the jobs over there (in Santee) and that will expand the economy here locally."

T&D Staff Writer Gene Zaleski can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at 803-533-5551. Discuss this and other stories online at

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