Parker Cos. received conditional approval Monday for a road across the Spanish Moss Rail Trail corridor in Beaufort -- removing a hurdle for its proposed gas station at the intersection of U.S. 21 and Parris Island Gateway.
Although Beaufort County Council dropped its request that Parker's build a tunnel under a new road leading into the development from U.S. 21, it now requires trail sections that cross through the development to meet tough design standards.
County administrator Gary Kubic said council could decide later not to issue the permit if those conditions, set by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, are not met.
"If they don't ... provide enough space for what we believe is necessary according to those standards, under this recommendation, the encroachment permit will not be issued," he told council.
Kubic said meeting those standards also ensures the county can seek federal grants to offset trail construction costs.
Parker's, of Savannah, has spent more than a year seeking approval to build the gas station on the former Dixie Mobile Home Park. The land is within Beaufort, and city planning officials are reviewing the proposal.
Beaufort County has no say in the design of the proposed gas station, but has authority to issue an "encroachment permit" because a new road from U.S. 21 into the gas station crosses the trail route.
The trail corridor is owned by the Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority but managed by the county.
Nobody from Parker's or the public spoke at Monday's meeting held at the Hilton Head Island library.
A Parker's spokeswoman was not immediately available after hours.
Beaufort County initially requested Parker's build a tunnel under the new connection with U.S. 21, allowing cyclists and runners on the future trail segment to pass safely underneath cars and trucks cruising into the gas station.
Earlier this month, Parker's said it would not build the tunnel. Instead, the company offered to route the trail into the development, where it would cross a new road at a three-way stop, avoiding the dangerous crossing closest to U.S. 21.
In addition to the trail standards, the conditional approval requires Beaufort to accept any new roads built as part of the project. The city also must assume responsibility for any traffic-reduction measures required by the project and run sign plans for the affected trail segment past the county.
The S.C. Department of Transportation must also grant approval for the new entrance onto U.S. 21 for the project to move forward.
The Bluffton Parkway-Buckwalter Parkway intersection design favored by the town of Bluffton for the future Bluffton Parkway alignment was sent back to a council subcommittee for additional review. The council's Public Facilities Committee will discuss two competing designs April 15.
At issue is whether the county should keep the intersection design it approved five years ago or accept a new one Bluffton officials support.
The intersection issue is part of the proposed $20 million to $25 million Bluffton Parkway realignment, which would build a new 2.5-mile parkway segment that replaces the "dogleg" around Pinecrest.
The extension affords town officials more time to explain why the new alignment is better, Bluffton Mayor Lisa Sulka said.