Developers working with the city of Beaufort on the Lafayette Street project to build middle-class homes asked officials Thursday to be patient in the face of continuing delays.
The project, nearly three years in the making, is a private-public partnership with Gooding Contractors, Inc. The city's Redevelopment Commission discussed progress during a meeting Thursday. No developer attended.
The city gave the company -- composed of Eric Brown, Brad Bowden and Lance Gooding -- nearly an acre of land at 1403 Lafayette St. in June of last year in exchange for building homes with final prices geared toward middle-class workers.
The lot remains vacant.
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"Hopefully the commission will show a bit more patience and understand that we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and are starting to put the pieces back in place," Bowden wrote in an email to commissioners. "It's unfortunate it has taken this long to get all of the entities involved on the same page and the approvals in place, but we are finally there."
Commission chairman Jon Verity said while he doesn't understand why the project is taking so long, "I am glad they're still going forward with it, and they've probably spent more time and more money than they intended."
Requests for proposals were solicited in early 2012.
The agreement with the Gooding group was approved by Beaufort City Council on Nov. 27, 2012. It outlined a number of timelines, including a 90-day due diligence period with closing to follow within 30 days.
According to Beaufort County property records, Gooding Contractors assumed ownership June 5, 2013.
The agreement further stated the first building permit was to be applied for within six months of the closing, and the first house finished six months after that permit was issued. Additional houses were to follow about every six months.
City planner Libby Anderson said stormwater permitting was one holdup, and commission member Mike McNally said the state office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management was slow to respond to developers and "tied their hands."
S.C. Department of Transportation permitting related to driveways and an alley, as well as road improvements, have also been blamed for the delay.
While commission member and City Councilman Mike McFee said he understands some engineering had to be postponed while waiting on permits, he wonders if some work could have been done "concurrently."
He wants to take a closer look at the timelines established in the agreement.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.