By Mindy Lucas
In a dramatic twist of fate, a building owned and used by those involved with a high-end resort project proposed on Bay Point Island, appears to have succumbed to high tides over the weekend.
It is unclear exactly when the building fell on the island south of St. Helena Island, but the remains of the small, cottage-like structure could be seen as recently as Sunday, Nov. 15 by boaters passing by.
It is also unclear where the building once stood in relation to where it ended up after tides retreated, but photos taken on Sunday by Beaufort resident John Trask showed the building had fallen almost entirely on its front and was lying in sand.
What is known is that the area saw higher than usual tides over the weekend, according to the National Weather Service in Charleston.
In fact, Saturday, Nov. 14 was marked not only by a New Moon but a perigee, meaning the moon was at its closest point to the Earth in its monthly orbit, the weather service noted.
The phenomenon, known as a supermoon, can produce King Tides and result in not only higher tides but stronger tides as the moon’s gravitational pull on the Earth is at its strongest.
The National Weather Service tracks area tides using two gauges – one in Charleston Harbor and the other at Fort Pulaski National Monument near Savannah. Friday’s high tide came crested at 7.7 feet while Saturday’s measured 7.86 feet, according to measurements taken from the gauge in Charleston Harbor.
“Any tide above 7.5 is considerate moderate flood level in Charleston,” said Courtney Maskell with the weather service.
The weather service, which also keeps records on any structural damage caused by flooding events, uses three categories to describe flooding – minor, moderate and major levels, Maskell said.
“Eight feet is the threshold for major coastal flooding,” she said. Sunday’s high tide came in at 8.13 feet.
The high tides and structural damage on the property is significant in that erosion, rising sea levels, increased storm activity in the Atlantic and the changing face of the island were at the core of arguments made by area conservation groups and others opposing plans for a luxury “ecotourism” resort.
The project, which was to feature 50 cottages among other buildings that developers said would blend in with the tree line and have little impact on the surrounding environment, was denied in September by Beaufort County’s Zoning Board of Appeals.
Bay Point Island LLC has since filed an appeal in Beaufort County Court.
In addition, the county has tentatively agreed to enter into a mediation process with developers though no meetings have happened on that yet, interim Beaufort County Administrator Eric Greenway confirmed on Tuesday.
“No time frame has been set or scheduled set for that mediation to occur,” he said.
Calls to owners involved in the project were not returned before press time on Tuesday, though landscape architect Josh Tiller who worked on the project confirmed that the owners were aware of the building’s collapse over the weekend.
He did not know how the building’s fall might affect things going forward with the project.
“All of that is in the hands of the attorneys,” he said.
The Island News has also submitted questions about the structure’s collapse to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management. A spokesperson for the department said they would not have answers back by press time on Tuesday but were looking into them.