In a unique reversal of common priorities, the announcement of a 964-acre development west of I-95 in East Liberty was of secondary importance to several hundred people gathered at Springfield Plantation on Saturday. The $395 million North Newport Plantation project is just a means to an end, a goal carefully conceived by property owner Laura Devendorf. Her goal is to preserve 2,000 acres east of the interstate and the treasures they hold. That will form the Springfield Legacy Foundation — “the last great save” — a partnership of environmental, historic and cultural institutions.The reserve includes the North Newport River, heritage oaks, upland pines, meadows, former rice fields, freshwater lakes, hardwood swamps and salt marsh. It is home to the Melon Bluff Nature Center and the Sam Ripley Farm, an African-American homestead listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In planning the foundation, Devendorf said she realized the project was huge, and as the idea developed, “We started using HUGE in capital letters,” she said.“And, the cost, I realized, was staggering. How would we raise the revenue for this? I decided I would have to sell something HUGE.”And that was the beginning of the North Newport Plantation development. The project is designed for single and multi-family residential use as well as retail and office/institutional, including a planned hospital complex.The preliminary plan is for 1,934 housing units. Planned unit development zoning is being sought for the area that is mostly in the unincorporated area of Liberty County.A small part of North Newport Plantation is inside the city limits of Midway and a conditional use is being requested to develop that area.With financing from the North Newport Plantation development, the Springfield Legacy Foundation will be able to apply Devendorf’s vow not to sell one inch of land to the 2,000-acre reserve east of I-95.”“The land will own itself,” she said. A unanimous vote of the board of directors will be required to sell any of the land. “And there won’t be a unanimous vote as long as I’m alive,” she said.