Five years after the controversial Okatie Village project fell victim to the recession, a scaled-back plan for the proposed development on S.C. 170 has received preliminary approval from a Beaufort County commission.
Developers LCP III LLC and Malind Bluff Development LLC now envision Osprey Point, one of three original sections of Okatie Village, as an age-restricted neighborhood with as many as 396 homes and a commercial center along the highway.
With the county Planning Commission's approval Monday, the plan now goes to the Natural Resources Committee for review Sept. 2.
Osprey Point is the lone survivor of the Okatie Village project, which received county approval in 2008 for more than 1,000 homes in several planned communities near the Okatie River.
However, the project never gained traction after the economy tumbled and two other parcels that were part of the plan, called Okatie Marsh and River Oaks, went into foreclosure during the recession, according to attorney Lewis Hammet, who represents the Osprey Point development.
The county purchased the 98-acre Okatie Marsh tract from BB&T bank -- which had foreclosed on the property -- in 2012 through its Rural and Critical Lands Program to prevent developers from reviving plans to build commercial space and hundreds of homes along the river. Bank of the Ozarks now owns the River Oaks tract, which could eventually be developed.
The project led to a debate about impact fees the county charges developers for homes in planned unit developments to pay for increased infrastructure and service demands. For most of 2008, Okatie Village developers negotiated with county officials on such fees and eventually agreed to pay more than $10 million to widen S.C. 170 and contribute to the construction of new schools. In exchange, the developers would be allowed to build more homes than the property's zoning would otherwise allow.
The entire Okatie Village project originally was designed to attract families to a series of walkable communities and shopping centers, with children able to walk to Okatie Elementary School, Planning Commission member John Thomas said.
As that project fell apart, developers tried to reinvent Osprey Point, Hammet said.
"Between that land going away (to Rural and Critical Lands) and the rest of it disappearing in foreclosure, we're in a different world over there," Hammet said.
"We were really excited about the original concept, but the reality of the marketplace is that could never be done now," Thomas added.
The new plan calls for 131 fewer homes than the original Osprey Point design and a 17,000-square-foot reduction in commercial space, Hammet said. The plan also includes about 8.5 acres of open waterfront space and parks and will include trails to connect to a 2-acre passive park on the county's Okatie Marsh property.
The biggest change will make the neighborhood a gated, age-restricted community, similar to nearby Sun City Hilton Head and Riverbend developments, Hammet added.
Several commission members, however, were concerned that the age-restricted concept would squander the community's proximity to the elementary school.
"I think it's shortsighted to make it age-restricted when it's right next to a school," commission member Diane Chmelik said. "One of the whole things there was the ability of children to walk to school."
As a result of those concerns, the commission recommended approval of the new plan, but asked that County Council consider requiring a certain percentage of the community not be age-restricted, commission member Randolph Stewart said.
The commission also recommended that garages on smaller lots face an alley behind the homes, and that the shopping center include some "village style" shops in addition to any large retailers, Stewart said.
Follow reporter Zach Murdock at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach.
- County pays $1.5M for 'Okatie Marsh' property, Oct. 24, 2012
- Okatie Village moves another step forward, Oct. 14, 2008
- Okatie Village developers agree to pay county $10.7 million, Sept. 5, 2008