Pub­lic has fi­nal op­por­tu­nity to weigh in on Pep­per Hall deal be­fore vote on Mon­day

The Beaufort Gazette - - Front Page - BY ALEX KIN­CAID ak­in­[email protected]­land­

Af­ter years of back and forth about the con­tro­ver­sial Graves prop­erty, a fi­nal de­ci­sion is ex­pected Mon­day night.

Beau­fort County Coun­cil will take a fi­nal vote on the plan to de­velop Pep­per Hall Plan­ta­tion, and the pub­lic will have one last chance to weigh in on the mat­ter.

This comes af­ter two of four ma­jor stick­ing points were elim­i­nated, county coun­cil mem­ber Mike Covert — who is in fa­vor of the agree­ment — said ear­lier this week.

The re­main­ing items in­clude the county’s $2 mil­lion con­tri­bu­tion to pave Graves Road, which leads into Pep­per Hall, and a 50-50 split in stormwa­ter main­te­nance costs.

Beau­fort County res­i­dents have been out­spo­ken in their op­po­si­tion to the agree­ment, which would al­low devel­op­ment on a more than 80-acre tract of land owned by Robert Graves. An­other 18 acres will be­come a county park.

At County Coun­cil’s sec­ond read­ing, about 20 peo­ple ad­dressed coun­cil, and only one per­son — the at­tor­ney for Graves — spoke in fa­vor of the agree­ment. That read­ing was ap­proved in a 6-4 vote.

“The agree­ment is to­tally un­fair to tax­pay­ers,” said Tim Crow­ley, a Sun City res­i­dent who op­poses the plan.

Crow­ley be­lieves a 50-50 split for stormwa­ter cost is a bad deal for the county, among other con­cerns.

“There’s not go­ing to be any stormwa­ter from a park,” Crow­ley said. “The county shouldn’t be pay­ing 50 per­cent.”

Alice Howard, a mem­ber of County Coun­cil, agrees that the county should not foot 50 per- cent of the bill.

A mem­ber of county staff cal­cu­lated how much the county should pay for stormwa­ter based on the amount of land each party owns and how much of that land will be de­vel­oped, Howard said. Based on those cal­cu­la­tions, she said the county should re­ally only pay 3 per­cent of stormwa­ter costs.

“I like to see com­pro­mise,” Howard said Fri­day. “I know they’re go­ing to de­velop it, and they have ev­ery right to. But I


Tim Crow­ley, Sun City res­i­dent

wish the county wasn’t foot­ing the bill.”

Covert, how­ever, said Fri­day stormwa­ter runoff will not just come from the Graves’ prop­erty, and so it is fair that the county is pay­ing half the bill.

“Runoff from other places is lit­er­ally pour­ing onto his prop­erty,” Covert said, not­ing some runoff comes from Is­land West and Berke­ley Hall. “Why is that his prob­lem?”

That ar­gu­ment, how­ever, does not jus­tify the county pay­ing 50 per­cent, Crow­ley said.

Rikki Parker, a project man­ager with the Coastal Con­ser­va­tion League, said Fri­day if it’s true runoff is com­ing from else­where, it is still not the county’s job to foot the bill, and the CCL is not sure the deal is “eq­ui­table.”

Parker noted the CCL is “thank­ful,” how­ever, that the county ap­pears to have re­moved the two con­tro­ver­sial items from the pro­posed agree­ment.

Those items would have al­lowed Graves an ex­cep­tion on the amount of open space his prop­erty would have re­quired, and would have swapped 2.5 acres of the county’s wa­ter­front land along the Okatie River for 1.5 acres of in­land prop­erty that Graves cur­rently owns. Graves ear­lier sold a barn that sits on the prop­erty to the county and would have re­gained own­er­ship of it through the swap.

A Face­book page named “Save the Okatie River” ap­pears to have been formed late last month. The 163-mem­ber group is “against reck­less devel­op­ment” and op­poses the devel­op­ment of the Graves prop­erty.

Barry John­son, Robert Graves’ at­tor­ney, was un­avail­able for com­ment Fri­day.

Mon­day’s meet­ing will be held at 6 p.m. at the county ad­min­is­tra­tion build­ing at 100 Ribaut Road in Beau­fort.

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