'Big box' shopping center planned in Bluffton; contaminated site to be cleaned

A Georgia developer is planning a new shopping center in Bluffton that would contain several "big box" retail stores, according to a Beaufort County official.

"Bluffton Gateway" would be built on 66 acres of mostly undeveloped land near the intersection of U.S. 278 and Bluffton Road, county planning director Tony Criscitello said.

But before it can be built, the land must be cleared of contaminants from a former printing business.

The developer, Jaz 278 LLC of Roswell, Ga., appears close to signing a voluntary "non-responsible party" cleanup contract with the state to remove chemical solvents left from the defunct business at 34 Bluffton Road, according to the draft contract.

State inspectors found "various hazardous waste storage violations" at the former print shop in the late 1980s. Groundwater samples collected in 2007 detected the presence of chlorinated solvents that were "in excess of federal and state drinking water standards," the contract says.

Tests conducted two years later found reduced traces of the solvents.

The property has changed hands over the years and is now owned by PAHH Development LLC. Jaz 278 plans to acquire the property to build the development, the contract says.

The proposed contract is undergoing a mandatory, 30-day comment period, according to Lindsey Evans, a spokeswoman for the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

The voluntary mitigation plan calls for Jaz 278 to conduct soil and groundwater tests and install three monitoring wells, among other things, according to a draft of the contract.

County Council voted to rezone the property in January to allow heavier commercial development. The county is negotiating a development agreement for the property.

Councilman Brian Flewelling, part of the county's negotiating team, said the company has proposed several buildings for the site.

Flewelling doesn't expect major problems with the agreement, which requires the council's approval. The negotiations are scheduled to continue July 31.

The project is "nothing that is going to be too shocking and is certainly something that is compatible with surrounding development," he said.

On Wednesday, the developer deferred a presentation on the project to the county's Development Review Team, Criscitello said. The team often is the starting point for large developments.

Other details about the project, including possible tenants and a development timeline, were unavailable Thursday afternoon.

Attempts Thursday to reach Jaz 278 company officials were unsuccessful.

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