Beaufort sets precedent by accepting ownership of proposed Parker's development road

emoody@beaufortgazette.comFebruary 26, 2014 

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In this file photo, a bicyclist travels along the former railroad tracks and crosses at the intersection of Parris Island Gateway and Trask Parkway during a rainy afternoon in Beaufort.

SARAH WELLIVER — Staff photo Buy Photo

Parker's can proceed with a gas station and convenience store at the intersection of Parris Island Gateway and Trask Parkway after the city of Beaufort agreed to take ownership of a road that will be built to give access to a proposed development on the property.

The agreement between the city and developer Many M's LLC resolves a stalemate with Beaufort County, which resisted the convenience store's plans for the location.

The county leases a former railroad right-of-way from the Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority and plans to extend the Spanish Moss Trail walking and biking path across the property. Under a previous plan, the county wanted Parker's to build a tunnel to take the trail under the proposed road.

As part of the agreement, Many M's LLC, must give a total of $13,420 to the city to cover maintenance of the road for the next 20 years. That figure reflects a per-mile maintenance estimate calculated by the city's Public Works Department, city manager Scott Dadson said.

The arrangement might prove to be a template for future city road ownership.

"We've now set a precedent; we're really not going to take streets without a way to pay for maintenance," Mayor Billy Keyserling said.

There are about 148 lane miles of roads in the city that are owned by the state, which is most of the roads, according to previous presentations from the city. City officials have expressed a desire to own more of those streets, which would allow for quicker maintenance and redevelopment deals.

The maintenance cost that comes with ownership has been a concern, however.

Dadson said the agreement with Many M's isn't perfect, but getting a partner to share the costs marks progress.

"I think this frames us moving forward, which is probably more important than anything," he said. "This will not be the last time you are asked to take something over, and at least you have something to look back at now."

City Councilman Mike Sutton asked that Public Works keeps a close eye on actual costs. That way, if the city uses a similar arrangement in the future, it can more accurately predict its maintenance expense.

The negotiation with Many M's struck themes similar to those in ongoing conversations with the S.C. Department of Transportation about road ownership, Dadson said.

Two years ago, the city sent a proposed memorandum of understanding to the DOT to address "deficiencies" in the state's Roadway Credit Program, which allows cities to take over streets, according to city public works director Isiah Smalls. Funding through the program was not enough to maintain roads in the way Beaufort officials and staff desire, according to a presentation by Smalls. The city wanted to work out an arrangement in which it received more money, and improvements were made before ownership was transferred, among other points.

Dadson said there have been no recent developments in that discussion with the DOT.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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