Lolita Huckaby



By Lolita Huckaby

Ocean may get it but Bay Point safe from developers … for now

The next battle site will be Pine Island

BEAUFORT – Finally, some good news on the development front.

The S.C. Environmental Law Project and Coastal Conservation League announced last week developers of Bay Point Island had dropped their appeal, hopefully bringing an end to the more-than-two-year battle to build a resort community on the barrier island.

You can call it “good news” for the Gullah-Geechee Fishing Association, who were the official clients opposing the development, along with hundreds of citizens including Gov. Henry McMaster.

If you supported the Bangkok, Thailand-based developer’s plans to build a “world class, eco-tourism” community, which they promised would mean more jobs for the local folks, well, maybe it’s not “good news.”

But supporters, as well as opponents of the Bay Point developer, can stay tuned for the ongoing effort to protect Pine Island, on the other end of St. Helena Island, from a gated community.

On hold are the county planning staff’s efforts to amend the current Cultural Protection Overlay District zoning, which opponents say will open the door for Pine Island developers’ plans, including a restricted-entrance security gate and golf course.

Members of a citizens task force have hired their own attorney and are reviewing he proposed changes. The County Council, which must ultimately take action on the staff’s proposed changes, has given them until April 10 to report back.

After that, the proposed changes – and the future of Pine Island – could go into the hands of the court, where the lawyers will kick it around.

BA moving into boarding-school business

LADY’S ISLAND – Congratulations are due to the Beaufort Academy leadership team for their new plans for the future!

The pre-K through 12th-grade academy, in case you missed the front-page story in last week’s The Island News, is the recipient of a $40 million loan from the USDA. And with that money, the school leaders plan a total renovation of the Sam’s Point Road campus.

Included in those plans is a 100-bed dormitory, which will enable the Academy to become a boarding school for upper-level students.

Development updates

BEAUFORT – The proposed townhouse project on the corner of Ribaut and Allison roads is showing signs of moving forward.

Developer Sam Levin’s plans for 39 homes plus the two two-story retail/commercial buildings were approved last year by the city.

Four older residences along Allison have been removed, as have the former mobile homes which used to occupy the wooded 12-acre lot.

The development includes a day care center which will be a joint project with BMH to provide services for its employees.

Over in Port Royal, the town council recently completed its most recent expansion, annexing a 12-acre tract on Parris Island Gateway. Developers plan to convert the property to … guess what? Not another car wash or auto parts store. But apartments.

There was some initial concern expressed by the Municipal Planning Commission about the 55-mobile homes that would be displaced by the development. But those concerns were over-ridden and the zoning to accommodate the project was unanimous.

And last, but certainly not least, infrastructure construction was scheduled to start this week on the corner of Port Republic and Scott streets for that much-debated 303 hotel project. The former parking lot (and before that, a hardware store) is located behind the historic Verdier House.

The three-story hotel with a rooftop bar on the fourth-floor will be adjacent to a section of tabby wall, circa 1800, that somehow has managed to withstand the changes of Bay Street.

More news on the housing front

BEAUFORT – The County’s latest efforts in the area of providing affordable housing now has a name – the Beaufort Jasper Housing Trust.

The nine-member panel whose goal is to provide some housing relief to the working folks has a chair and vice-chair – Wendy Zara and Dick Stewart – and is working with a $3.4 million pledged budget the management agency CommunityWorks.

The Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce’s annual 2023 Economic Forecast, delivered last week to a room-full of folks at the USCB Center for the Arts, highlighted the obvious growing need for housing. The report also stated the obvious – more folks are moving here who are retired and have $$$ than the folks who are needed to fill jobs.

Good luck to the Trust.

Lolita Huckaby Watson is a community volunteer and newspaper columnist. In her former role as a reporter with The Beaufort Gazette, The Savannah Morning News, Bluffton Today and Beaufort Today, she prided herself in trying to stay neutral and unbiased. As a columnist, these are her opinions. Her goal is to be factual but opinionated, based on her own observations. Feel free to contact her at bftbay@gmail.com.

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