When Coleene Dye bought a townhouse in the Village of Verdier off S.C. 170 three years ago, she was sold on the idea the property would one day become a bustling retail and residential community.
Today, the 125-acre tract is a ghost town, with only Dye and another family with young children as residents. All that remains of the bankrupt developers' vision are a real estate office with an unfinished building next to it and 20 townhouses -- 19 of them unoccupied -- on a signless street where Dye lives.
Dye loves her townhouse but had hoped she would be living in a thriving neighborhood with shops, restaurants and beauty parlors around the corner -- not to mention neighbors. When she moved in October 2007, construction of those things was supposed to begin in January.
"Had I known the developers were having problems, I wouldn't have bought," Dye said.
There might soon be small signs of life, though, according to a representative for the Kansas bank that foreclosed on the property in September 2008.
Matt Rowe, who works for Carson Realty, said the security Bank of Kansas is in talks with several prospects, each of whom could take a chunk of the land and develop their own plans for it.
One of the potential buyers, whom Rowe declined to identify, is interested in acquiring about half of the property and wants to offer leases on 18 unsold homes and work with the bank to build more.
The same potential buyer also wants to develop 40,000 square feet of commercial space and might dedicate some of it for an institution such as a school.
About 20 acres would be reserved for public space such as a park.
Rowe said the bank should know if the deal will proceed within 30 days.
Sale of another four-acre parcel is in the final stages, and a third unidentified prospect is considering buying 21 acres in hopes of connecting it with land he already owns along U.S. 278, Rowe said.
The bank wants to change the original development agreement with the townto have more of a commercial focus and less residential space. The shift calls for 427 residential units -- 83 fewer than the original plan. It also calls for 432,500 square feet of commercial space -- 207,500 square feet more than originally planned.
Those amendments haven't progressed because the town of Bluffton and the bankers continue to haggle over what the bank owes the town.
For example, the town wants a few acres along S.C. 170 to widen the road and a commitment to leave land near the Okatie River headwaters undeveloped.
The bank wants relief from some of the agreements it inherited when it foreclosed on the property.
"The bottom line is trade off," said councilman Mike Raymond.
The town's Negotiating Committee has turned over the deal to the Planning Commission and town council.
The various buyers' plans would work within the master plan -- which lays out what can go where on the property -- instead of altering it, Rowe said.
"It's actually a perfect complement to it," he said
Meanwhile, Dye is unaware of the proposed changes and how they might affect her.
"I'd just like the area built up," she said. "I'd like for my property to be worth what I paid for it."
Rowe said the bank will let the two households know about the new plans if the agreements are finalized.