Graves attorney: Beaufort County to purchase Pepper Hall

zmurdock@beaufortgazette.comDecember 6, 2013 

STAFF GRAPHIC

Robert Graves might have struck a deal with Beaufort County to sell 120 acres of his Pepper Hall Plantation property, which County Council will likely consider Monday, his attorney says.

"I think there's a very good chance that council should react favorably to what we'll provide," attorney Jim Scheider said.

In October, County Council declined an $18 million offer to purchase the property -- including $5.3 million to preserve 18 acres along the Okatie River and an option to purchase the remaining 102 acres for $12.7 million.

The council made a counteroffer to Graves in a Nov. 19 letter, Scheider said.

Scheider would not provide details about either offer, except that his client has come down and the county has come up on their desired prices. "(T)he two sides need to move a little closer together," Scheider said.

Graves and Scheider also seek some changes to the county's counteroffer, Scheider said.

"We have accepted some of the provisions of their counteroffer and modified others," he said. "So (council's) task should be greatly reduced in the sense that (on Monday), they'll only need to focus on the slight modifications we've made."

County attorney Josh Gruber said he would not comment on negotiations related to Pepper Hall because they are ongoing. Under South Carolina's Freedom of Information Act, the council would not be required to disclose details of the sale until after an agreement is reached.

The council's agenda Monday includes a closed session to discuss the proposed purchase of property for the Rural and Critical Lands Preservation Program, Gruber said. The council has not yet planned to discuss a Pepper Hall deal, but that could fall under the same closed session, he added.

Any action related to the Pepper Hall property would take place in public session, Gruber added.

The council and Graves have been negotiating a deal for more than a year and a half.

The Graves family, which has owned the land for 130 years, also has tried repeatedly since 2000 to have the parcel rezoned for commercial uses.

A proposal to rezone the property and an additional 40 acres to the north owned by Graves' cousins, John and Paul Graves, to allow commercial development is pending before the council's Natural Resources Committee.

Last month, the Graveses said they would consider a deal to annex the property into Hardeeville if Beaufort County would not buy the land.

However, Scheider said he is confident the Beaufort County Council will approve the sale.

"Simply put, this is the culmination of many years' effort," Scheider said.

Follow reporter Zach Murdock at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach.

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