Despite the lingering concerns of local environmental groups, the Beaufort County Council gave final approval Monday to redevelopment plans for Tanger Outlet Center 1 in greater Bluffton.
Citing a greatly improved rainwater drainage system, 2.3 acres donated to extend Bluffton Parkway and an estimated $40 million to rebuild the shopping center from the ground up, the council voted 8-1 to grant Tanger the added commercial density it needed for the project.
"Is this the most wonderful development that possibly could have ever existed on that site?" asked council chairman Weston Newton of Bluffton "No, it is not."
"On balance have we gotten a good deal for Beaufort County taxpayers? ...Yes."
Tanger will get an additional 30,000 square feet of commercial space on its 25 acres. In exchange, representatives for Tanger Outlet Centers promised to adhere to "green" building standards of the U.S. Green Building Council and an underground water filtration system to prevent runoff from draining directly into the Colleton River.
But given recent reports of increased levels of fecal coliform in portions of the May River, Bluffton resident Jimmy McIntire asked council members to make sure Tanger follows through with its end of the agreement.
"I realize the Tanger project is supposed to be the greenest of the green, however we've been told this before and look at where we are today," McIntire said. "Make sure the Tanger development will accomplish what's being claimed in terms of stormwater runoff."
Andrea Malloy of the Coastal Conservation League urged the council to reject the redevelopment plans, saying the council was wasting an opportunity to push for a more environmentally friendly development.
While acknowledging the improvements to the rainwater filtration system, Malloy said the council should be pushing all developers to build residential/commercial projects that reduce sprawl and discourage driving.
Ultimately, though, Newton prevailed.
"There are probably a lot of folks who'd like to see it turned into a grass field," he said. "On balance this thing seems to be a pretty good deal."
The lone nay vote was from Laura Von Harten of Beaufort, who cited environmental concerns.
Walter Nester, a local attorney representing Tanger, said construction will start "as soon as possible."