Native group opposes development on Bay Point Island

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Gullah/Geechee Fishing Association challenges developer’s latest efforts to build a luxury resort

From staff reports

The Gullah/Geechee Fishing Association filed a motion Tuesday, Nov. 17 to intervene in Bay Point Island, LLC’s (BPI) appeal of the Beaufort County Zoning Board of Appeals decision that blocked the developer’s plans to build a luxury resort on Bay Point Island.

The Association seeks intervention in the appeal because the livelihoods of its members will be directly and adversely impacted if BPI is allowed to move forward with its proposed development, according to the motion to intervene filed on Tuesday in Beaufort County Circuit Court.

According to a release, members of the Association for generations have relied on the marshes, beaches and pristine waters surrounding Bay Point to harvest fish and shellfish which supports their businesses and their families. Members also provide educational demonstrations concerning Gullah/Geechee fishing traditions.

BPI’s proposed development would destroy this valuable cultural resource and wildlife habitat by constructing 50 cottages, a spa, wellness center, fitness center, restaurants and bars, along with 10 septic systems on the highly dynamic barrier island which is accessible only by water.

According to Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation and officer of the Association: “Gullah/Geechee culture is inextricably tied to the land and waterways of the Sea Islands. The cumulative effects of the negative environmental impacts that this resort that is being greenwashed as ecotourism would bring will not only disturb and irreversibly impact an environmentally sensitive area near historic St. Helena Island, it will have numerous destructive negative impacts to the quality of life and continuation of Gullah/Geechee culture.

“The Gullah/Geechee Nation is recognized internationally and federally, and this project is not aligned with insuring the continuation of this culture which is vital to Beaufort County and South Carolina as is shown by the (more than) 31,000 signatures of those who continue to oppose the Bay Point project. Disya da destructionment!”

The motion to intervene was filed on behalf of the Association by the South Carolina Environmental Law Project (SCELP), a nonprofit public interest law firm that has long opposed any development efforts on Bay Point Island.

BPI is challenging the Zoning Board’s denial of a special use permit for “ecotourism” for the proposed resort and requested mediation before the appeal goes to court. In the motion for intervention, the Association also seeks involvement with the pre-litigation mediation.

“We are filing this motion on the heels of the developer’s appeal because we recognize the urgency of the Association’s early involvement, particularly with a pre-litigation mediation that could re-open the door for this harmful project on the horizon,” said Amy Armstrong, the executive director of SCELP.