Consideration of Bluffton Parkway reroute hits delay

A request to reroute a future path of the Bluffton Parkway was delayed Monday, as members of a Beaufort County Council committee said they want more information before discussing the matter further.

Changing the route would require redoing environmental and noise studies, which would take six months and cost about $89,000, said David Beaty, a consultant with Florence & Hutcheson.

County Council would have to hold another round of public hearings and re-evaluate how the project would impact residents.

The proposed reroute would bring Bluffton Parkway closer to the Townes at Buckwalter. Bluffton town manager Anthony Barrett and Mayor Lisa Sulka argued that route would help spur economic development in a growing area.

Currently, drivers on Bluffton Parkway must take a mile-long jog on Buckwalter Parkway. The county aims to eliminate this by extending Bluffton Parkway in a more or less straight line to Buck Island Road. County engineering plans, adopted by council in 2008, show the new Bluffton Parkway intersecting Buckwalter Parkway about 600 feet north of Lake Point Drive.

The town of Bluffton and developer John Reed, however, have requested that future intersection be moved about another 400 feet north. Reed opposes the county's plan because it would run the new thoroughfare through a development his company has planned. He says the alternative route could save money because his company would donate much of the land needed for the road.

"We've always said we would give the right of way," Reed said. "But you have to work with us. You can't just come and destroy our master plan, and that's what's being done."

Beaty estimated buying the needed right of way would cost about $4.1 million. But Reed's attorney, Lewis Hammet, said he thought the true value was more than double that.

Councilman Steve Baer suggested those advocating the route change bear the $89,000 costs for new permits and studies.

"We have approved Plan 1 already," he said. "If the other plan is so good, let the other people pay for it."

Because of potential sticking points, County Council isn't yet evaluating the proposal on its merits, council Chairman Weston Newton said, but is simply trying to understand the costs and benefits of considering such a change.

"We're not formally considering this at this point," he said. "We're considering what it would take to consider it."

The Public Facilities Committee plans to discuss those details at its next meeting.

Follow reporter Kyle Peterson at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufortCo.