Beaufort News

Bluffton, property owner disagree over easement to widen S.C. 170

Cars drive by the entrance to National HealthCare Corp. on Thursday morning on S.C. 170 in Bluffton.
Cars drive by the entrance to National HealthCare Corp. on Thursday morning on S.C. 170 in Bluffton. SARAH WELLIVER/The Island Packet

The town of Bluffton's Negotiating Committee asked the three developers of Kent Estates on Thursday to donate rights of way to help complete the planned widening of S.C. 170 from Bluffton Parkway to U.S. 278.

But the only owner who is currently building on the 130-acre property -- National HealthCare Corporation -- said the donation would hurt plans for a senior citizen campus with assisted living facilities and hospice care.

Thomas Campbell, National HealthCare's director of development, argued the company should be compensated for the two acres it would have to give up to the widening project.

"The elimination of the setback requirement is very important to us because if we don't do that, we can't develop a large enough assisted living facility to make it economically viable," Campbell told the panel.

The donations would preserve the tree canopy when the highway is widened to four lanes and add value to the property, town officials responded.

The other two owners of Kent Estates parcels -- New Leaf, LLC and Lowcountry Evergreen, LLC-- are facing financial difficulties and are not currently building on the property. New Leaf, which is threatened with foreclosure, owes the town $134,135 in fees, town documents show. Lowcountry Evergreen owes about $2,400.

The parties will have to meet again to come to a final agreement. No date has been set for that meeting.

The town is eager to get the right-of-way donations to keep the $16 million earmarked for the section of the S.C. 170 widening from moving to another project, officials said.

County engineering and infrastructure director Rob McFee said construction is about 16 months away.

Town officials will meet with the Beaufort County officials next week to go over the final design of the highway, including traffic lights, pedestrian access and pathways.