Beaufort News

Lady's Island, city of Beaufort in talks on area once slated for Walmart

A Walmart Supercenter or similar big-box store would be allowed on Lady's Island near the Beaufort County Airport if a pending settlement between the city of Beaufort and the property's owner is approved, according to new details released Wednesday by the city.

Beaufort initially refused to allow a big-box store on the 41-acre Airport Junction property but then began negotiating a settlement with land owner Fred Trask, whose company sued the city in 2009 after it denied Walmart's application to build a 195,000-square-foot store on the site.

A Circuit Court judge determined in December 2009 that the property's development agreement allowed a big-box store, and the city appealed in early 2010.

"We reached a point where we had to (ask) how much more taxpayers' money are we going to spend on this," Mayor Billy Keyserling said.

The settlement would limit a big-box store to 150,000 square feet and require that it -- or any structure larger than 55,000 square feet -- sit 300 feet from the street, much like the Lowe's on Robert Smalls Parkway in Beaufort, according to a city news release.

All structures larger than 55,000 square feet would have to face Airport Circle rather than Sea Island Parkway, with parking between the building and Airport Circle.

"You basically wouldn't be able to see the building from the street," Mayor Billy Keyserling said. "It's better than a building sitting up there in everybody's face."

Buildings under 55,000 square feet would be allowed within that 300-foot buffer, or the area could remain green space, the release said.

Attempts Wednesday to reach Trask for comment were unsuccessful.

Other settlement highlights, according to the release:

  • More than 250,000 square feet of potential commercial space is removed from development agreements for several of Trask's Lady's Island properties that are within city limits.
  • Trask and his real estate-development companies would receive a 10-year extension on their development permit agreements within city limits. This includes land on Cane Island and land between Lady's and Cat islands and the J.E. McTeer Bridge. Also included are sites along Robert Smalls Parkway near Lowe's, including Hanover Park, Caroline Field and Burton properties.
  • Trask would donate 1.5 acres on Upper Cane Island to Beaufort for possible use as a fire station.
  • Trask would drop his lawsuit against Beaufort on the Walmart project and Airport Junction.

The city will have to make the changes to the development agreements before the settlement is approved. That process requires review by the Beaufort-Port Royal Metropolitan Planning Commission, two public hearings and two votes by the City Council, according to the release. The council plans a first reading Tuesday.

The issue dates to January 2008, when Walmart applied for permits to build a "supercenter" on the property.

Zoning for the property allows up to 250,000 square feet of commercial space, but Beaufort officials twice rejected Walmart's proposal, determining the Airport Junction planned unit development was for an office park-style development with several smaller office buildings, rather than one large structure.

Airport Junction LLC, which is registered to Trask, sued the city in May 2009.

Follow staff writer Juliann Vachon at