Sea Island Coalition endorses Whitehall park proposal

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The Sea Island Coalition voted last week to endorse a proposal for a 10-acre public park on the Whitehall tract on Lady’s Island.

The endorsement by the Coalition’s policy committee came on the heels of assurances from the developer, Sam Levin of Whitehall Point Holdings, that approved plans for the remaining 10-plus acres would not substantially change. 

Regardless of conversion of 10 acres of Whitehall to parkland, plans remain for approximately 20,000 square feet of retail and commercial development along Sea Island Parkway, a 100-unit “independent living” facility in the interior of the development, and “cottages and cottage homesites” along the eastern and southern borders of the development.

“Our concern was that with the conversion of the western portion of Whitehall to parkland, the developer would shift higher density multi-story development to other areas of the Whitehall parcel,” Coalition vice president Mary Sommerville said. “This was discussed with Mr. Levin in several meetings this week, and he has committed to a build-out of the remaining acreage substantially as proposed. This resolved one of our major issues with the park proposal.”

A second concern of the coalition was that the Whitehall acreage after a park-related sale be at least 10.2 acres in area, intended to ensure adequate public review if the parcel was ever sold to a third-party. 

“This provision does not affect current approvals for the site, but if the developer for some reason could not complete his plans, we want to ensure any subsequent purchase and development would be subject to public review by the Metropolitan Planning Commission rather than a simple administrative action by the City of Beaufort,” Sommerville said. “We see Whitehall as a ‘metropolitan’ resource and not the purview of only a single municipality. The Open Land Trust, which is negotiating the details of the parkland purchase, is fully aware of our concerns, and we are hopeful these conditions will be reflected in any final agreement.”

The Coalition’s endorsement adds to a groundswell of support for the project. The Friends of Whitehall Park group’s petition supporting the park has garnered more than 2,200 in just two weeks.

“The Coalition has been pushing for a park at Whitehall for more than a year now, and we’re excited that all the pieces are finally coming together,” she said. “The Point at Whitehall is a special site, and it deserves to be conserved and protected.” 

The Friends of Whitehall Park will hold an informational meeting on the property from 9 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 25.

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