Beaufort News

Bluffton to consider resolution supporting county purchase of Beaufort Commerce Park

Bluffton Town Council will weigh in Tuesday on Beaufort County's proposed $2.5 million purchase of the Beaufort Commerce Park from the Lowcountry Economic Network.

Town manager Anthony Barrett has introduced a resolution supporting the network's efforts to sell the park to the county.

The network can't repay $2.4 million on a loan it borrowed to buy the park and has asked for the county to purchase it to avoid foreclosure. Two county council members, Steve Baer and Brian Flewelling, have voted against the purchase in preliminary votes.

Town Council members will vote on the resolution at their meeting Tuesday, and the County Council will take its final vote on the purchase Feb. 14.

Departing from his practice of not commenting on issues the council will soon vote on, Barrett outlined his support of the Lowcountry Economic Network's goals in an e-mail Thursday.

"The opportunity to have a publicly-owned, development-ready park is one of the classic tools for development," Barrett wrote. "With the current banking/financing environment, having the potential to create sound public/private partnerships is probably the only way a county or town can advance economic development."

The town is a member of the network.

Since the network acquired the property, it has created a master plan and a development agreement and added water, sewer and stormwater systems to attract businesses.

Mayor Lisa Sulka, for one, will vote in favor of the resolution. She said economic development can move faster because the park is move-in ready.

"I am hopeful that the county votes in favor of this purchase, and we can soon see the benefits from such a purchase," she wrote in an e-mail.

County Council chairman Weston Newton said input from municipalities is instructive, but ultimately the decision must be made by the county.

Newton said he does not view the purchase as an inappropriate use of funds, but he has "serious reservations" about it and continues to talk to stakeholders.