Beaufort County Council authorizes $850K land acquisition

County withholding details on possible uses for 42-acre site

cconley@islandpacket.comMay 22, 2013 

Beaufort County Council has authorized the purchase of nearly 42 acres in Okatie.

The $850,000 acquisition, which would be paid for with proceeds from a bond anticipation note, was approved Monday night on a 10-1 vote.

A day later, it wasn't clear how the land would be used or why the county wants to buy it.

Council Chairman Paul Sommerville declined to comment on the transaction, noting that discussions about the purchase took place during a closed-door executive session. The vote occurred during open session as required under state law.

Councilman Rick Caporale also declined to comment, referring questions to top county administrators.

"Buying the land is not a secret and where the money is coming from is not a secret, but for more details than that, I suggest you call (county attorney) Josh Gruber or (county administrator) Gary Kubic," Caporale said.

Council routinely authorizes land acquisitions throughout the county, often to preserve property within the Rural and Critical Lands program. Most transactions are immediately followed by either a press release or a full disclosure from county staff about the purchase, even in situations where the transaction isn't yet final.

However, Gruber declined to discuss future uses for this site, saying only that it is "in the county's best interest to make this purchase."

"The county is in the process of finalizing the purchase documents relative to the approval that was received at last night's County Council meeting," he said Tuesday in a statement. "As soon as these documents have been executed and are in the county's possession, we will be providing a full press release on the details of this transaction."

The land is located near the Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority offices on the Beaufort County side of S.C. 170, according to Caporale. An exact address was not available.

Councilman Brian Flewelling, who cast the lone vote opposing the purchase, also declined to discuss it yesterday.

"Concerning the land acquisition, obviously the intended use of the property is subject to executive session privilege, and I am not able to comment on that," he said.

"Quite frankly, with the use not being something I am comfortable with, I decided to vote against the acquisition."

He said he would explain his vote in more detail once the county releases more information on the purchase.

Follow reporter Casey Conley at twitter.com/IPBG_Casey.

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