Sardis Lake Project ‘close as ever’

Published 8:45 am Friday, December 24, 2021

by Jeremy Weldon

Panola Partnership CEO Joe Azar this week said the almost-mythical Sardis Lake Project is “closer than it will ever be” to becoming a reality, more than 25 years after town and county leaders first began pursuing development of waterfront property at the state park.

Azar made the comment while giving the Board of Supervisors a report of a trip to Washington, D.C., recently headed by Sardis Mayor Richard McCarty with Alderman Michael Price and Tourism Director Greg Davis.

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“The Sardis officials were really organized and it was a very professional trip,” Azar said. “I was impressed with the presentation the Town of Sardis and their engineers put together. Our message was unified and was well received by the Congressmen and Senators.”

The Sardis Lake Project has been a dream of the Sardis business community and county economic developers for years, but has never materialized, mainly because the 1,100 acres the Town of Sardis wants to develop – although in the city limits – is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and leased to the town.

“Our main ask was for the deed to the property. You can’t recruit a developer unless you have a deed,” Azar said. “Everything lay upon whether we can get the Corps to deed the land to Sardis.”

Azar said his confidence in the movement of the project is based on the enthusiasm he witnessed during the trip to Washington, and in meetings with the Corps. For the first time, he said, officials from the federal agency are communicating well with Sardis and the all-important Delta Council in its role as advocate for Delta farmers, who have long feared that development of the Sardis Lake area would be detrimental to flood control designs.

“Yes, Sardis is a flood control lake that hopefully prevents major flooding in the Delta and the Yazoo Basin, but Sardis has said that no one will be allowed to build below the 301 feet above sea level mark,” Azar said. “There will be no damage to the flood curve whatsoever.”

Azar said Sardis officials are tentatively hoping for a development that would include 200 new homes and a large hotel and convention center in the first phase. He said the town has already applied for grants that would fund the extension of utilities to the area, and provide other infrastructure groundwork.

Additionally, the town has secured a grant of $181,000 to attract and vet developers.