Politics & Government

Beaufort Co. bought this contentious property. Now, a citizen says he’ll buy the land

A screen shot of a flood map showing the area near Battery Point in northern Beaufort County, South Carolina.
A screen shot of a flood map showing the area near Battery Point in northern Beaufort County, South Carolina. Beaufort County Government

A county-owned, undeveloped — and, some say, water-logged — corner lot in a neighborhood is suddenly a hot commodity, at least for one man.

And that lot is at the center of a controversial land deal that Beaufort County Council is trying to reconcile.

Andy Allen, a Battery Point resident, attended a recent council community service committee meeting — which dealt primarily with the lot — and offered to buy the Bostick Circle property for $34,000, the same price the county paid for it a year ago.

“There’s nothing that’s changed in that regard,” Allen said Friday afternoon. “I’m still willing to do that.”

Allen’s house is adjacent to the lot — which he jokingly calls the “Bostick Mosquito Farm” — that the county purchased as the site of a home for clients of the county’s Disabilities & Special Needs Department.

But numerous Battery Point residents have voiced concern over the house — they say the lot floods easily and retains water and, generally, is an unsuitable site. Others believe a house in that specific location would be an eyesore. Still others have raised questions about DSN clients’ safety because of the lot’s proximity to water.

In a recent letter to the editor, Battery Point Architectural Review Committee Chairman James Pickard said his group rejected the county’s proposed “single-story, five-bedroom home” because it didn’t conform to community standards.

However, there are other variables at play: councilman Gerald Dawson has publicly stated that opposition to the project stems from “prejudice” toward DSN clients, an observation other officials have noted.

While councilman Brian Flewelling — himself a Battery Point resident — largely disputes that notion, he takes issue with the way the property was acquired. Former interim county administrator Josh Gruber orchestrated the deal, which Assistant County Attorney Chris Inglese later deemed “an unauthorized purchase” because Gruber violated a county ordinance by failing to seek council’s approval before buying the land.

Allen said he supports DSN’s mission and his offer is not an attempt to undermine the agency.

Flewelling, who opposes developing the lot, said after Jan. 15’s council meeting that he hoped to “divest” of 1 Bostick Circle.

And that makes the timing of Allen’s offer — which came at the Jan. 22 committee meeting — an intriguing development.

A screen grab of a picture showing the property at 1 Bostick Circle in the Battery Point subdivision in northern Beaufort County, South Carolina. Beaufort County Government

However, council is still on the fence about what, exactly, to do.

But the body will have to make a decision soon.

The community service committee kicked the issue back to council for “further consideration and whatever action they deem appropriate,” as committee chair Larry McElynn said at the end of the meeting.

The Battery Point lot’s home would complement three other DSN residences, a project approved in 2017 following the sale of DSN’s former residential care facility in Port Royal, The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette previously reported.

The homes house four residents and are supervised 24 hours a day by a staffer, according to county documents.

The homes’ purpose is to teach DSN clients life skills by integrating them into their communities, according to the agency’s website.

Allen said he and his wife were eying 1 Bostick Circle a year ago, but were surprised to learn the county had purchased it and planned to develop it.

He said he would not develop the lot or sell it to someone who would. Instead, he said he’d try to work with Battery Point’s homeowners’ association to remove and replace some trees and landscape the area.

He said he’s talked with Flewelling since the committee meeting and plans to speak on the issue at council’s next meeting, scheduled for Monday, Feb. 11.

Allen, who’s lived in Battery Point since 2006, says heavy rains leave the lot flooded for weeks at a time.

“I think the county is kidding itself a little bit on what it’s going to cost to deal with the drainage,” he said.