Beaufort News

Developers sue Beaufort County over multimillion-dollar park deal. Here are the details

Beaufort’s pristine Whitehall will be developed. Here’s what will be preserved

A developer has offered Beaufort County two options for a public park at Whitehall on Lady's Island. Beaufort County Council approved the purchase in a unanimous vote on Sept. 24, 2018.
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A developer has offered Beaufort County two options for a public park at Whitehall on Lady's Island. Beaufort County Council approved the purchase in a unanimous vote on Sept. 24, 2018.

Developers who sold Beaufort County prime waterfront property last year to preserve as a public park are now suing related to the deal.

Whitehall Point Holdings, LLC filed the lawsuit against the county June 7 related to a dispute over access and an easement agreement related to drainage on the Lady’s Island property known as Whitehall.

The development group sold 9.72 acres of the property to the county last October for $5.45 million, including $4.37 million from the county’s taxpayer-funded Rural and Critical Lands program.

Developers plan to build commercial and residential projects on the remaining 10 acres. The county-owned park is now being overseen in part by a grassroots volunteer group and a new sign welcomes visitors to Whitehall Park.

In court papers filed this month, developers say the county doesn’t own an access easement to enter the park via the road off of Sea Island Parkway and asked for a judgment saying as much. They also asked a judge to validate an easement agreement that in part details a stormwater drainage area on the park property be shared by the commercial development.

County attorney Tom Keaveny earlier this year voided the easement agreement, saying the document had been filed in error without a signature page and wasn’t valid. Developers, through attorney Bill Harvey, said the document was required for closing and that county attorneys directed the easement agreement be filed with the Register of Deeds over objections the papers weren’t complete.

A phone message for Keaveny wasn’t immediately returned Friday morning. He has previously declined to comment on the dispute, citing the potential legal action.

County Council members received a summary of terms of the deal before a Sept. 24 meeting that included the shared drainage area, the lawsuit said. Councilman Paul Sommerville said after the threat of legal action in February that the council had approved only the sale and that the easement agreement required separate approval.

The county has 30 days to answer the developer’s complaint in court.

Stefanie Nagid, the county’s passive parks manager, said Friday morning she wasn’t aware of the lawsuit and that as far as she knows the park will continue to be open to the public from dawn to dusk. The developers don’t intend with the lawsuit to restrict access to the park, Beaufort developer Sam Levin said Friday.

Money was recently approved to develop a plan for the park, Nagid said. The county will maintain the property until 2021, when the city of Beaufort will take over maintenance.

Stephen Fastenau covers northern Beaufort County as a reporter for The Beaufort Gazette and The Island Packet, where he has worked since 2010 and been recognized with state and national awards. He studied journalism and political science at the University of South Carolina in Columbia and lives in Beaufort.
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