Lolita Huckaby



No surprises at the ballot box

BEAUFORT – Last week’s mid-term election returns held few surprises.

The proposed local option sales tax went down with a thud, the proposal to change the method for getting a county treasurer and auditor sank, there were few surprises in the Port Royal elections where the incumbents easily won re-election.

As projected, the voter turnout was low – 14 percent county wide, and even Port Royal voters, who had the option of electing two council members, turned out only at the 21 percent level.

Well, … any thoughts?

The county and municipalities, whose leaders pushed to get the LOST on this ballot, paid approximately $50,000 to a Charleston consulting firm, MRB Group, to help market the referendum.

Since state election law won’t let local governments use tax dollars to SUPPORT a referendum vote, the money was to be used for providing information about the referendum question.

The fact that it was announced less than a week before the election that some of the wording in the referendum question wasn’t correct, probably didn’t help its chances.

That, and the fact that both the local Republican Party and Democratic Party went on record opposing the additional sales tax, also didn’t help.

All that aside, one of the consistent comments made for opposing the additional sales tax was that voters “didn’t trust government” to do what they said they would do with the extra money.

And that’s unfortunate. These same elected officials that many say they don’t trust are the same ones that are setting policy and approving plans for new roads, new developments, all aimed at bringing more people to this part of the Lowcountry.

They, along with the tourism economic development folks have done their job well, letting this lovely part of the Lowcountry capitalize on those who want to move here and share the beauty.

Those new residents are going to continue to come, make no mistake about it, and the game is going to continue on how to pay to pave their way.

Still waiting for Port Royal waterfront development to launch

BLUFFTON – While NOB folks wait for the proposed sale of the Port of Port Royal property to Safe Harbor Marinas LLC to be finalized – reportedly sometime this month – they might consider another waterfront change happening south of the Broad River, at the luxurious Palmetto Bluff.

Palmetto Bluff’s new development owners, South Street Partners, also owners of Kiawah Island, purchased the Bluffton property this spring and are petitioning the town planning commission for a change to their development agreement to allow a dry-stack storage facility plus an expanded marina to accommodate 186 boat slips on the New River.

There are petitions out there to oppose the marina, on grounds the expansion would damage the area’s fragile water environment and the May River Watershed.

The Planning Commission unanimously rejected the request but the issue goes to the Bluffton Town Council this week.

Beaufort City Council also got an update last week from Safe Harbor, which operates the city-owned Downtown Marina. The company says they’ll spend $7.5 million in the next two years to expand the marina to include another t-shaped dock out into the Beaufort River.

Just a little reminder: We’re a waterfront community, indeed, with lots of potential to make money. It will be interesting to watch while we wait to see what the new owners of the Port Royal waterfront will do first.

Idea for new fishing piers in place of old bridges just doesn’t get traction

HILTON HEAD ISLAND – It’s also interesting to note the S.C. Department of Transportation and local town officials, as part of their planning for a new, expanded U.S. 278 onto the Island, have already nixed the idea of using the existing roadway for a future recreational asset.

The idea of a fishing deck was raised earlier this year when the new Harbor Island pyramid was completed and plans were being made to blow up the existing bridge structure and haul it out to sea.

Asking around, the government types indicated the idea of a fishing bridge, like along our Broad River Bridge, U.S. 17 in Georgetown or I-95 on the Santee, had been debated at one time during the planning process for Harbor Island but was decided to be too much of a maintenance issue for local government.

Apparently the government types are telling The Island Packet the same thing for this U.S. 278 project, which is sucking up all the transportation dollars in this part of the Lowcountry.

Probably the same DOT planners who came up with the idea of cutting all the trees from the I-95 medians to protect drivers. Wonder if it will be the same planners to decide how to widen I-95 from the Georgia line?

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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