A six-year legal battle over a frontage road in front of Berkeley Hall on U.S. 278 appeared headed for settlement, but the gated community has decided to reject Beaufort County's latest offer.
Last week, the community's property owners board voted to say no to an agreement presented by the county earlier this fall, Berkeley Hall general manager Adrian Morris said. Two weeks ago, the community held a meeting to discuss the settlement, and it was clear residents felt "this particular one was not viable," he said.
"We would like to find resolution, but to come up with a resolution that's best for everybody," Morris said. "We're not saying it's over; we'd like to go back to the drawing board."
The frontage road is designed to give neighboring St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church and school a safe entrance and exit onto U.S. 278. It would connect the church's parking lot to the Berkeley Hall entrance and the traffic light at Buckwalter Parkway. The road would also extend east of the church to the light at the Bluffton Township Fire District station.
Construction can't begin on the project while plans for the road are in litigation, county attorney Josh Gruber said.
The settlement called for the county to pay for a pressure-sensitive traffic signal at the Buckwalter intersection, road improvements, and landscaping to maintain the look of Berkeley Hall's entrance, Gruber said.
But Berkeley Hall residents are concerned about the amount of traffic that would funnel through the intersection at certain times, like morning drop-off for students and weekend Masses, Morris said.
Plans for a frontage road connecting Berkeley Hall and the church have been tied up in litigation for about six years, Gruber said. Both county administrator Gary Kubic and Gruber said they were disappointed with the community's decision.
"The county really has bent over backward and gone out of its way to find some kind of common ground with Berkeley Hall," Gruber said. "I'm not sure what else we could bring to the table to offer them at this point other than what we've already done."
Building the road is essential to give parishioners safe access to the church and St. Gregory the Great School, Kubic has said.
"We are 100 percent committed to ensuring this frontage road is built because it represents the only traffic improvement that will actually provide a long-term safety solution," Kubic said in a news release. "The minute Berkeley Hall drops this litigation, the county will immediately move forward on building this frontage road."
Meanwhile, the church and school are caught in the middle with few safe options for parishioners, parish manager Joe Ruoto has said.
Without the frontage road, parishioners arriving from or leaving on eastbound U.S. 278 must make a U-turn at a median crossing or at the Buckwalter Parkway intersection.
Follow reporter Zach Murdock at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach.