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LOWCOUNTRY LOWDOWN

7 mins read

Local efforts to protect from flooding bear watching

LADY’S ISLAND – Anyone remember the massive dirt relocation project in 2018, when a reported 20,000 dump truck loads of dirt were hauled into what is now the Walmart site?

If you recall that period of Lady’s Island development, when it looked like the developers were building a mountain next to the marsh, you might remember seeing truck after truck bringing in dirt to raise the elevation of the proposed commercial center so it would be in compliance with flood level regulations, since the area is known to … well … flood.

It wasn’t just the new Walmart project that prompted concerned planners, government officials, developers, business leaders, the Coastal Conservation District and the Sea Island Coalition to put their heads together and come up with some amendments to development codes to stop such environmental craziness.

The proposed “infill ordinance” which has already been adopted by the city of Beaufort and is before the Port Royal town council and the County Council’s Natural Resources committees applies to land which is not more than 10 feet below sea level.

While it allows for some infill, only 33 percent of a large parcel can be elevated, not the entire parcel which was the case for Walmart.

A second ordinance change making its way through the municipal and county channels is called the Coastal Resilience Overlay District. Proposed by the county’s Storm Water Task Force, the ordinance would require any real estate transactions of properties 10 feet below sea level to be marked with a disclaimer.

This ordinance is still under consideration by the county as well as the two municipalities since the local Association of REALTORS and the Hilton Head Homebuilders Association have questioned the need, contending there are existing requirements that already warn potential buyers.

There’s a story going around about a new property owner in the area who, upon discovering part of his new home site sometimes flooded, went to the county for permission to build a barrier in the setback zones.

When asked by the county staff how often the flooding occurred, his answer was twice a day.

“Well sir, your property includes marshland,” he was told.

“Well, I didn’t know that. I’m not from around here. How could I know?”

Just saying.


And here it is – The tree report

LADY’S ISLAND – Plans for the long-awaited Harris Teeter grocery and filling station are moving along in the city’s planning department, with the most recent approval for landscaping and lighting granted by the Design Review Board.

And for those who might be mildly curious about the future of the trees on the site at the corner of Sams Point Road and Sea Island Corridor (does anyone NOT know where this is?), yes, more are coming down … 154 to be exact.

True, many of the trees are smaller, considered by city regulations to be “not significant” trees. But there’s at least one large Magnolia tree along Sams Point Way, a sad reminder of a beautiful Magnolia grove that once graced the wooded lot, that has a red X on it.

Probably fewer and fewer local residents remember the three-year fight in the mid-1990s for that wooded parcel, a fight which went all the way to the S.C. Supreme Court before final approval was given.

Forty-seven live oaks gave their lives for that Publix and what some customers cursed as the worse parking lot in the area.

In case you missed it

BEAUFORT – The County Council’s plans to impose a $169 annual garbage collection fee for all county residents – including folks in the municipalities – has made it past second reading and awaits only a third and final vote before passage.

Council last week unanimously approved the new fee, which will replace the solid waste tax on tax bills.

That’s the same meeting where they voted to drop the mandatory mask requirement so not a lot was said about additional garbage fees.


Keeping up with the room count

BEAUFORT – As local hoteliers, like their hospitality counterparts, are struggling to find staff to work in their places of business, we eagerly await the completion of other hotels in the area to intensify the situation.

Last summer, the city gave approval to a third five-story, 116-room hotel at the corner of Trask Parkway and Parris Island Gateway. While construction hasn’t begun, the new Substation on the block has opened to the joy of those who reside in the adjoining two hotels.

We’re also eagerly awaiting opening of the five-story, 111-room SpringHill Suites by Marriott, which has loomed over Boundary Street since before the COVID pandemic began.

Then there’s the 12-room boutique hotel under construction on Carteret Street where the old Boombears Toy Store once stood.

No dates for completion are set for any of these because that’s information developers don’t like to share.

Welcome back

BEAUFORT – Just in time to enjoy all our new hotel rooms with minimum staff to maintain them, the Marine Corps is reopening the Parris Island Depot to weekly graduation ceremonies.

The ceremonies, which pre-Covid brought hundreds of families to the area to see their young Marines graduate, have been closed to the public since March 2020.

Beginning May 7, graduating recruits will be allowed two guests at the Friday morning ceremonies.

And face masks are required.

Lolita Huckaby Watson is a community volunteer and former reporter/editorial assistant/columnist with The Beaufort Gazette, The Savannah Morning News, Bluffton Today, Beaufort Today and The Robesonian (Lumberton, N.C.). She can be reached at bftbay@gmail.com.

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