Planning Commission greenlights Whitehall development plan

5 mins read

By Mindy Lucas

Planners for the Whitehall development project went back before the Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC) on Monday, Dec. 14 with a revised development plan, and this time their proposal was approved.

In a unanimous vote held at the MPC’s regular meeting Monday night, members gave their stamp of approval to a revised plan that featured significantly less density on the Lady’s Island property.

The developer’s previous plan was denied by the commission in September after some members called into question whether the site plan reflected the intent of the county’s zoning code.

In an apparent effort to go “back to the drawing board” planners had reworked site plans to include what developers and commission members estimated to be about 20-25 percent less density in terms of buildings.

Residential space now includes single family lots and townhomes as opposed to the larger scale apartment buildings the previous plan featured. Zoned for mixed use, the plan still includes some space for businesses or other commercial uses.

While access points remained the same, roads within the development were reworked slightly with a road off Harbor View Circle now connecting to other roads in the development.

Some residents commenting at the public meeting voiced concerns that this would allow drivers to cut through the Harbor View Circle neighborhood, but overall, seemed in favor of the changes.

“By far this is the best Whitehall plan to date,” said one resident from the neighborhood.

Whitehall revised plans as of December 14 (Top of page: earlier sketch plan)

One of the most vocal critics of the developer’s previous plan at previous meetings, commission member Judy Alling, praised the new plan.

“This is what I believe the community was hoping for,” she said. “I believe it will meet most of their needs.”

The revised plan also received approval from area conservation groups which had objected to previous plans.

“While not perfect, the plans represent a critical step in the right direction,” said Jessie White, South Coast Office Director with the Coastal Conservation League. “This new plan reflects significant improvement over prior drafts, and we’re encouraged because it better exhibits sensitivity to both the character and sustainable long-term growth for Lady’s Island and City of Beaufort.”

Still, some residents and commission members raised concerns over the need for a traffic light at Sea Island Parkway (U.S. Highway 21) and Meridian Drive, concerns that have been ongoing since the project was first proposed.

“I still think that is the proper location for a traffic signal, and I still think it’s going to be problematic because traffic is already problematic along Sea Island Parkway and it’s going to get worse with any amount of development that goes here,” commission member Bill Bardenwerper said.

However, approval of a traffic light is ultimately in the hands of the South Carolina Department of Transportation, Commission Chairman Mike Tomy reminded those who called in.

“They’ll be making a determination whether there is a traffic light there or not,” he said.

While DOT does not historically commit to traffic lights unless traffic volumes warrant their construction, engineers at previous meetings have indicated it is highly likely those volumes would be met once the development is built.

A traffic light at Meridian is also being considered as part of the Beaufort High School access realignment project, part of a group of projects that is being funded by the 1 percent sales tax increase approved by Beaufort County voters in 2018.

Beaufort County purchased the other half of the original Whitehall site, or remaining 10 acres, in 2018 and has since moved forward with plans to develop a public park which will front the development and overlook the Beaufort River.

Related stories: Whitehall subdivision plan rejected

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