Walmart admitted Friday to building the median that seemingly appeared overnight in a greater Bluffton shopping center across the street from where the retailer is building two new stores, and it is not clear whether the retailer had permission to do so.
The median was built to accommodate a traffic light that Walmart plans to build at the Bluffton Road entrance of the Kittie’s Crossing shopping center, according to a representative from Walmart. Kittie’s Crossing is across the street from where Walmart is building a superstore and a Sam’s Club.
Walmart does not own the Kittie’s Crossing property.
“The median is required by the S.C. Department of Transportation as part of the construction of our new store and nearby traffic light,” Phillip Keene, director of corporate communications for Walmart, wrote in the email early Friday. “We’re actively working with the primary property owner of the private drive near the median to address some concerns that have been brought to our attention. We hope to provide a further update soon.”
Michael Black, a spokesman for the state DOT, said earlier in the week that the encroachment permit required to construct the light did not cover the section where the median was built.
He said the median is on private property and therefore DOT would not have had the authority to give Walmart permission to build on it.
North Bluffton Properties owns and operates the property where the median was built, but property manager Paul Terefenko would not comment on the median or whether Walmart had been given permission to build it.
Louise Dixon, president of public relations at Chernoff Newman in Charlotte, sent Walmart’s statement to The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette on behalf of Keene, Walmart’s spokesman.
When asked whether Walmart had permission to build the median, Dixon said she is not a spokeswoman for Walmart, but that it is one of the issues being discussed.
Calls for further comment from Dixon and Walmart were not returned Friday afternoon.
The median was discovered the morning of July 29 by Tony Arcuri, owner of Giuseppi’s Pizza and Pasta at Kittie’s Crossing, the business closest to the median. He said he had no warning it would be built.
The new median replaced a shorter one that had cuts to allow traffic to flow into and out of Giuseppi’s parking lot. Now, depending on the direction cars are coming from, traffic is potentially blocked from entering and exiting the lot, which is also for customers of AAA Carolinas, Palm Beach Tan, Panda Chinese Restaurant and La Hacienda.
Drivers exiting the lot are now forced into a right turn and farther into the shopping plaza. Those coming from the direction of Target and Food Lion can no longer make a left into the outparcel lot.
Business owners were annoyed they weren’t told about the new median and that they could not get answers on who built it. They were also concerned about a potential drop in customers and for the safety of drivers, who are confused by the new traffic flow.
Drivers have been seen making tight and ill-advised U-turns, driving on the wrong side of the median and driving right over it. Three car wrecks have been reported to the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office since it was built.
Shortly after the median appeared, Arcuri stood outside for 15 minutes and watched drivers.
“It’s ridiculous,” he said.