Politics & Government

Bluffton neighborhood becoming parking lot for Daufuskie ferry. Is there a solution?

There’s only one road for cars traveling into or out of the Buckingham Landing neighborhood in Bluffton, and residents say a steady increase in traffic on that road is wrecking their quality of life.

After Hurricane Matthew damaged Palmetto Bay Marina on Hilton Head Island in October 2016, Daufuskie Island ferry operations were moved to Buckingham Landing on Mackay Creek.

The waterfront property, which includes the old Sea Trawler restaurant, has since been purchased by Beaufort County for $2.2 million. Before the purchase, the county was paying $10,000 a month to rent the dock.

Alisa Ware and her family bought a lot to build a home in Buckingham Landing in the summer of 2016.

“This neighborhood was very different before the ferry,” she said.

It was the type of neighborhood where children — hers are now ages 13, 10 and 4 — could ride bikes and safely play outside with their dog, she explained, but the increased traffic from ferry customers has made that dangerous.

The ferry leaves from Buckingham Landing at 7 a.m., 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. daily.

“When (ferry customers) are late, you can tell because they are speeding,” Ware said. “When they are early, they are driving around.”

The July 4th holiday week was particularly bad, said neighbor Amanda DuBose.

“The line of cars was backed up down our street to the point people could not get out of their driveways,” she said.

“It’s affecting our daily lives here with the amount of people coming and going,” DuBose said. “The neighborhood is too small to sustain this kind of traffic.”

There are 85 parking spaces on the site officially designated for the ferry, according to Beaufort County facilities management director Mark Roseneau.

Overnight parking is offered on site for $10 per night or $100 a month, according to the ferry service’s website.

Monica Spells, an assistant county administrator, said ferry riders also are allowed to park 4 miles away in the county’s lot at the government center on Bluffton Parkway.

Parking problems

Kirk Richards, assistant district engineer for District 4 of the South Carolina Department of Transportation, told The Island Packet that he had been to Buckingham Landing and documented vehicles parked inappropriately in the rights of way and under the Bluffton flyover.

Residents said they have had to put up “no parking” signs and call police to have cars towed if they are blocking roads and driveways.

The house where Ronnie Broome has lived all his life — it was his parents’ home when he was born — is adjacent to the former restaurant’s property.

Broome said cars park illegally, even block fire hydrants, and traffic backs up as drivers use the public boat ramp as a staging area for loading and unloading passengers.

“I’ve tried to work with the county to find solutions,” he said. “I’ve tried to work with Haig Point and their transportation folks.

“I think they have good intentions, but at the end of the day nothing happens or it actually gets worse.”

Capt. Richard Inglis with Daufuskie Island Ferry Services, which contracts with the county to operate the ferrry, did not return messages or emails requesting comment.

Search for solutions

The residents say they accept that the county has a commitment to Daufuskie Islanders.

“I just think it could be done in a different way,” Broome said.

Officials who spoke to The Island Packet all expressed sympathy for the residents and promised their troubles would be addressed, though none could pinpoint a date when that would happen.

“It’s a complex issue that deals with both Daufuskie and the residents, as well as SCDOT and Beaufort County facilities, including use of the boat ramp,” said Robert McFee, director of construction, engineering and facilities for Beaufort County. “Lots of balls in the air.”

Beaufort County Councilman Chris Hervochon, who represents the neighborhood in District 8, said he met with some of the residents and recognizes that the space is not appropriate for the amount of traffic involved.

“I hope we are going to look at the placement of the ferry in the next year or so,” Hervochon said. “The reality is there was a parking problem even when it was a restaurant.”