Beaufort county and city planners continue to address traffic and land-use questions as development booms on Lady’s Island.
A request to annex and zone land for what is expected to be a new Taco Bell near the Lady’s Island Walmart is still on the table. Beaufort City Council will talk about the proposal again at a workshop Tuesday.
The Walmart development is expected to overload a key intersection on Lady’s Island when it opens.
Planning heads from the city and county met to discuss traffic and land-use strategy for the stretch of Sea Island Parkway after a recommendation from a northern Beaufort County panel in January. They talked about whether a traffic engineer would be needed, the scope of the work and how costs would be shared, city planning director Libby Anderson said.
The intersection of Sea Island Parkway and Sams Point Road is slated for delays when Walmart opens, according to the retail giant’s analysis.
Impact fees and a sales-tax increase are among the options for paying for traffic projects, but a plan must be in place first, Anderson said. With Boundary Street work underway and the county updating its comprehensive plan, now could be the time address Lady’s Island’s needs, she added.
“It’s difficult when there’s not a plan in place for improvement, so hopefully what will come out of this effort is some sort of improvement mitigation everyone can agree upon and then move forward,” Anderson said.
A Harris Teeter planned at the intersection of Sea Island Parkway and Sams Point Road will conduct its own traffic study and could contribute to a solution. A right-turn lane on Sea Island Parkway in front of Harris Teeter has been a discussed fix.
In addition to the traffic warnings, the panel overseeing the Northern Beaufort County Regional Plan asked city and county officials to look at land-use along Sea Island Parkway out to St. Helena Island.
Walmart is a planned unit development that has been annexed into the city. The proposed annexation across the road would zone the proposed Taco Bell site as highway commercial.
The county’s current zoning and proposed city zoning both allow a restaurant with a drive-through window as a conditional use, according to a chart Anderson complied comparing uses.
Work on the Walmart site off Airport Circle began last week. The city has not heard from Taco Bell since an initial meeting last year, and the fast-food restaurant has not yet submitted development plans, Anderson said.
Several Lady’s Island residents warned of traffic issues a Taco Bell or similar business would create at the intersection. The location at Lost Island Road is also where Sea Island Parkway narrows from two lanes to one.
Turning left from Lost Island Road onto Sea Island Parkway is already dangerous without additional restaurant traffic, residents have said.
Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling said he is torn about the annexation and zoning proposal. He said supports additional business in the city and for the process to be “user-friendly” but said traffic might need to be addressed before other plans move forward.
Taco Bell, or another business planning to develop the site, would have to conduct a traffic study.
“The question is do we annex it in knowing there’s that problem, or do we try to work with the county to look at the growth on Lady’s Island and the impact it’s having on (U.S.) 21?” Keyserling said. “And I’m torn.”