Lolita Huckaby



Good question: What do the locals think?

 LADY’S ISLAND – A zoning variance to accommodate a drive-thru shop, such as a Dunkin Donuts, on the Sea Island Parkway, was before the county Zoning Board of Appeals … again … last week. 

The third time did not prove to be the charm for developer Graham Trask, who was asked to come back with more site plans for his project. 

But the ZBOA discussion prompted an interesting question from one of the board members: “What do the ‘locals’ think about the project?” 

The board has heard from several residents opposed to the project because of traffic it would generate. But John Chemslak of Beaufort said he was interested in the “been here’s” versus the “come here’s.” 

Ironically one of those speaking in opposition to the project was Mayor Stephen Murray, who is a third-generation Beaufortonian. 

Makes you wonder how long you have to “be here” before your opinion can count. 

Port Royal ramping up Ribaut Road focus 

PORT ROYAL – From Burger King to the bridge. That’s been Mayor Joe DeVito’s rallying cry practically since he got elected in 2019. 

Economic development along Ribaut Road, from the town limits at Burger King on Mossy Oaks Road to the Parris Island Bridge, is rising to the top of the Mayor and Town Council’s priority list, now that the sale of the Port of Port Royal property is completed and development anticipated to begin. 

The council has ramped up a steering committee to plan for growth along the corridor, along with 303 Associates and Dick Stewart, who has purchased several pieces of property in the area. 

It’s in the process of revitalizing its economic development board, again with Dick Stewart one of the applicants for the board. 

The town is working with the S.C. Department of Transportation for ways to slow traffic particularly on S.C. 802 over the Woods Bridge and to develop alternate routes without directing motorists through residential neighborhoods. 

Recent conversations between the town and Beaufort city officials indicated support for extending the Ribaut Road study all the way to Boundary Street although Beaufort Mayor Stephen Murray stressed the city’s focus right now is on stormwater projects as they begin to work in the Point neighborhood and along Carteret. 

With the availability of federal infrastructure money, elected officials are thinking the timing may be right to push for the money. 

3rd bridge not a new idea but one that doesn’t go away 

LADY’S ISLAND – Retired building contractor and fellow rebel-rouser Beekman Webb brought back the past last week with his column in The Island News suggesting city officials get serious and start thinking – again – about another bridge to Lady’s Island. 

For those who are relatively new residents to the area and may not be aware of the history of the discussions that have been going on for at least the past 40 years, Webb, who has been here far longer than many of us, outlined the history of the third-bridge debate. 

While those new residents may be thinking “why isn’t something being done,” be assured there has been much discussion on both the municipal and county levels, at cocktail parties and community public hearings. But while those discussions have taken place, residents have continued to flock to the coast, heading for the Lady’s Island and St. Helena, Harbor, Dataw and Fripp, all reached only by bridges. 

And more houses keep being built. 

Even with the addition of the second bridge, the McTeer Bridge in the 1980s, it was obvious it and the Woods Memorial Bridge were going to be hard pressed to carry the daily traffic loads. 

County traffic planners and consultants are now looking at solutions to at least slow the traffic, particularly over the McTeer Bridge, where the number of car accidents related to speed steadily increases. 

And with all the new construction on the Lady’s Island side of the Woods Bridge, in particular the Whitehall development already under way, it’s obvious to anyone that the traffic congestion is going to get worse. 

Webb’s efforts to re-hash the third-bridge alternative – a connector between Bellamy’s Curve and Lady’s Island which was considered less offensive than three other potential sites in the last study in 2011 – didn’t stir up much debate, at least based on Facebook posts where The Island News can be found. 

Perhaps his comments were prompted by Mayor Stephen Murray’s recent comments during a discussion of the city’s updated comprehensive development plan, that there would be no further discussion of additional bridges at this point. 

Murray may have a point. We may have reached that “paralysis by analysis” point and unless a no more growth policy is adopted, which no one has advocated lately, attempts to improve traffic flow will have to be tied to money available, through federal or state programs, infrastructure funding or special sales taxes. 

Want road improvements? Gotta have the money 

BEAUFORT – The County Council’s announcement last week to go after another sales tax referendum in November may be a little sudden, considering last November’s substantial rejection of the idea, but the body of 11 has decided to move full steam ahead. 

The county’s elected officials agreed to establish an advisory panel to consider the idea, including how many projects should be put on the list, how much money will be needed and whether it should be placed before the voters this year. 

County Council Chairman Joe Passiment said by mid-month he wants to have the panel in place with a nominee for the committee from each of the 11 council members as well as the five municipalities. 

Although 73 percent of the voters rejected the sales tax referendum last year when only 14 percent of the voters bothered to vote, watch to see how this one develops if you want to see road improvements. 

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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