Here’s where Beaufort County stands with Pepper Hall — and when you can have a say
After years of back and forth about the controversial Graves property, a final decision is expected Monday night.
Beaufort County Council will take a final vote on the plan to develop Pepper Hall Plantation, and the public will have one last chance to weigh in on the matter.
This comes after two of four major sticking points were eliminated, county council member Mike Covert — who is in favor of the agreement — said earlier this week.
The remaining items include the county’s $2 million contribution to pave Graves Road, which leads into Pepper Hall, and a 50-50 split in stormwater maintenance costs.
Beaufort County residents have been outspoken in their opposition to the agreement, which would allow development on a more than 80-acre tract of land owned by Robert Graves. Another 18 acres will become a county park.
At County Council’s second reading, about 20 people addressed council, and only one person — the attorney for Graves — spoke in favor of the agreement. That reading was approved in a 6-4 vote.
“The agreement is totally unfair to taxpayers,” said Tim Crowley, a Sun City resident who opposes the plan.
Crowley believes a 50-50 split for stormwater cost is a bad deal for the county, among other concerns.
“There’s not going to be any stormwater from a park,” Crowley said. “The county shouldn’t be paying 50 percent.”
Alice Howard, a member of County Council, agrees that the county should not foot 50 percent of the bill.
A member of county staff calculated how much the county should pay for stormwater based on the amount of land each party owns and how much of that land will be developed, Howard said. Based on those calculations, she said the county should really only pay 3 percent of stormwater costs.
“I like to see compromise,” Howard said Friday. “I know they’re going to develop it, and they have every right to. But I wish the county wasn’t footing the bill.”
Covert, however, said Friday stormwater runoff will not just come from the Graves’ property, and so it is fair that the county is paying half the bill.
“Runoff from other places is literally pouring onto his property,” Covert said, noting some runoff comes from Island West and Berkeley Hall.. “Why is that his problem?”
That argument, however, does not justify the county paying 50 percent, Crowley said.
Rikki Parker, a project manager with the Coastal Conservation League, said Friday if it’s true runoff is coming from elsewhere, it is still not the county’s job to foot the bill, and the CCL is not sure the deal is “equitable.”
Parker noted the CCL is “thankful,” however, that the county appears to have removed the two controversial items from the proposed agreement.
Those items would have allowed Graves an exception on the amount of open space his property would have required, and would have swapped 2.5 acres of the county’s waterfront land along the Okatie River for 1.5 acres of inland property that Graves currently owns. Graves earlier sold a barn that sits on the property to the county and would have regained ownership of it through the swap.
A Facebook page named “Save the Okatie River” appears to have been formed late last month. The 163-member group is “against reckless development” and opposes the development of the Graves property.
Barry Johnson, Robert Graves’ attorney, was unavailable for comment Friday.
Monday’s meeting will be held at 6 p.m. at the county administration building at 100 Ribaut Road in Beaufort.