Port Royal Council denies Parker's gas station compromise

emoody@beaufortgazette.comOctober 9, 2013 

Images shows a compromise plan for a proposed Parker's convenience store in Port Royal, which was denied approval by the town council on Oct. 9, 2013.

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A compromise on plans for a Parker's gas station was denied by Port Royal Town Council during Wednesday's meeting after a lengthy discussion. Residents spoke for and against the plan.

However, council members want to try a third round of negotiations to reconcile continuing issues with plans.

Developer Pinckney Enterprises filed a lawsuit in May requesting mediation over a plan for a gas station at the intersection of Paris Avenue and Ribaut Road that the town's design review board (DRB) had approved.

The town and developers have disagreed on the number of gas pumps, placement of the building on the property and design of the canopy.

Council voted unanimously Wednesday not to approve the agreement created in mediation a few weeks ago and to seek more mediation. Mayor Sam Murray was originally the sole vote in favor of accepting the plan, but changed his vote when the motion was amended to include mediation.

"Just remember what mediation is all about," he said. "Two groups getting together and compromising. Not like what they're doing in D.C. right now."

A second round of recent mediation had the gas station centered in the middle of the property and divides the gas pumps under two canopies, city manager Van Willis said.

Town attorney Mary Lohr, Willis and Parker's attorney Walter Nester said they thought a workable compromise was reached in the mediation. All parties involved agreed to it, Lohr said.

"We came up with what we thought was a workable solution, and the one issue that seems to be a sticking point is something that is beyond our purview," Willis said.

That issue was safety concerns from councilmembers about the gas station's entrances and exits on Ribaut Road.

"When the first person is killed in that intersection there, they're going to come right to the five of us," Councilman Tom Klein said.

Those entrances and exits are set by the S.C. Department of Transportation, and Willis said the town has little control over that aspect of the plan. The town could write to DOT to request changes, however, he said.

"We should not under any circumstances allow that to be done, whether the highway department approves it or not," Councilman Vernon DeLoach said of the entrances and exits outlined in the plan.

Lohr, Willis, Nester and Nathan Long, an engineer on the project, tried to focus the council vote specifically on what was discussed in the two rounds of mediation.

"The reason we went to mediation in the first place, we had eight pumps on all site plans submitted to the DRB and then right before approval, they did six," Long said.

Council did not approve canopy designs after the first mediation, and Lohr said the second round was meant to resolve that issue.

"That was the deal-breaker, as I understood it," she said. "I specifically asked the question. It was not the number of pumps, it was the scope and size of the canopy."

Lohr said the next steps are for Parker's to agree to build according to the DRB-approved plan, agree to mediation, continue legal action or abandon the project. Nester said after the meeting that he didn't know what his client's decision would be.

In other business, council:

  • Approved financing to buy three police cars for a combined $80,000 and a fire engine for $455,000. The engine is to replace one stolen by a man who struck and killed a pedestrian with it last year.
  • Discussed problems that have cropped up with the transition to new trash bins and contracting out trash pick up.
  • Granted initial approval to annex and rezone 591 and 599 Robert Smalls Parkway.
  • Endorsed a request for proposals the Redevelopment Commission is issuing for a branding and marketing project.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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