The developer of Buckwalter Place said Thursday it will resume its own development plans, after Bluffton Town Council decided not to contribute money to a deal to buy the land.
Parcel 6 LLC said it will continue trying to develop the property for homes, stores, restaurants and similar uses. The announcement, in a news release Thursday, followed Tuesday's 3-2 vote by Town Council to withdraw its approval to help fund the Bluffton Public Development Corp.'s $4.2 million proposal to buy 34 acres in Buckwalter Place.
Parcel 6 LLC's news release said in light of the decision, it will resume its independent attempts to develop its property. Tom Zinn, the land's owner and managing partner of Parcel 6, said he would continue working closely with the town as he developed the land.
Corporation officials have said they wanted to attract high-paying, high-tech jobs to the property and were concerned its current owner might instead opt for further retail or restaurant development.
The town was asked to contribute $750,000 toward the purchase price. The corporation already had a $1 million commitment from Beaufort County and a $923,000 commitment from the Beaufort County Board of Education, along with a $1.8 million loan from Santee Cooper.
Parcel 6 partner Matt Green said in the company's news release that the developer looks forward to "working with all retail, restaurant, entertainment, lodging, office and residential prospects to put in place this vibrant mixture of uses."
The release did not say whether the developer had interested parties lined up. Zinn and Green declined further comment.
Attempts Thursday to reach Bluffton Public Development Corp. director Marc Orlando, who will become Bluffton town manager when Anthony Barrett retires in September, were unsuccessful.
Town Councilman Ted Huffman said the goal of the corporation was to bring a "quality" tenant such as CareCore, which is headquartered in Buckwalter Place, rather than the piecemeal retail development that rings the industrial park. Without control of the land, Huffman said, "all bets are off" on how the property will be developed.
Private development may not cater to the kinds of companies the town wants to attract, as the land is currently zoned for retail development, said Mayor Lisa Sulka, who joined Huffman as the only council members to support the purchase in Tuesday's vote.
"I don't fault (Parcel 6 LLC) at all for developing it the way it was zoned," Sulka said. "It's zoned different from our strategic plan. I wished the corporation could get together to think about 'Plan B,' but I know the developers want to take advantage of a strong market."
Town Council members Fred Hamilton and Karen Lavery, who voted against the proposal, said they were pleased the developer would resume trying to develop the property.
"If they do that, that's great," Lavery said. "We can't tell them, 'No, hold it.' If the corporation brought us something back, I'd be really happy to look at it, but you can't stop progress."
Councilman Larry Toomer, who also voted to withdraw the town's support, said he's not sure the property will be developed soon, Parcel 6 LLC's announcement Thursday notwithstanding.
"The property's been there for years," Toomer said. "It didn't just appear overnight."
Toomer said Thursday he didn't regret his decision to vote against participation in the land purchase but didn't think the negotiations were over yet.
Beaufort County school board Chairman Bill Evans said Thursday the school district's participation is now on hold, until the future of the property and the corporation become clearer.
"If a new plan comes forward, then we will obviously have to reassess that and decide if we still want to be a part of this," Evans said Thursday.
County Chairman Paul Sommerville said Beaufort County's role in the purchase deal also would be reassessed.
- Concerns over Buckwalter Place deal led to failed vote, July 16, 2014