Catholic church breaks silence on Berkeley Hall frontage road plans

zmurdock@beaufortgazette.comMay 21, 2014 

St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church broke its silence Wednesday night about plans to build a frontage road that supporters say will make access to the church from U.S. 278 safer.

The plan they offered, however, has already been rejected by Beaufort County

The road is designed to connect the church to the highway via intersections at Berkeley Hall to the west and the Bluffton Township Fire District headquarters to the east.

The proposal has been bogged down in litigation between Berkeley Hall and the county -- which would build the road -- for six years.

Church leaders have been reluctant to weigh in on the fight until Wednesday, when a church-sponsored forum drew more than 150 parishioners.

"The church hasn't spoken very loudly about this, but if we do speak up, we could be a force in helping resolve this sooner than later," said parishioner Rick McCollough, who studied the road's tumultuous history and presented his findings to the gathering.

Specifically, the church would endorse a road plan that included full traffic signals at Buckwalter Parkway and the intersection in front of the fire station, parishioner Ross Kuykendall said.

There is currently a full signal at Buckwalter Parkway.

There is a only a yellow flashing signal in front of the fire station that turns red to stop traffic when emergency vehicles exit.

Berkeley Hall representatives would support the church's plan, community general manager Adrian Morris said at the forum Wednesday. Directing church traffic to two traffic lights would help reduce congestion at the community's entrance, he added.

Current county plans, however, do not include a full signal at the fire station because of concerns about blocking emergency vehicles and low traffic counts when there are no church services, county officials say.

An attempt to settle litigation between Berkeley Hall and the county failed in December when the two sides couldn't agree on whether a full traffic signal at the fire station was needed.

Last week, the 14th Circuit Court allowed a Berkeley Hall lawsuit to proceed that disputes county plans to condemn property near the community's entrance for the road.

The condemnation was halted two years ago when the community appealed state environmental certifications for the project.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control reissued those certifications last week, ruling the county's plan to connect Berkeley Hall to the church is the least environmentally invasive solution to the area's traffic problems.

A court date to resume the lawsuit has not been set.

Berkeley Hall representatives have said they intend to appeal the DHEC decision for the second time in S.C. Administrative Law Court.

Follow reporter Zach Murdock at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach.

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