Editorials

Giant development by Sun City raises questions. Who has answers?

East Argent is a regional concern.

The giant residential and commercial development planned for Hardeeville has the potential to bring in more than 20,000 new residents to the Sun City Hilton Head area.

Plans for the project, which will be overseen by Atlanta-based developer Argent Land Holdings LLC, include the construction of 9,500 homes and apartments, as well as 1.5 million square feet of retail and office space on a roughly 7,300-acre plot west of Argent Boulevard and north of U.S. 278.

To measure how this could change the community, think of Sun City itself. With construction starting in 1995, it has brought 15,000 residents to 5,000 acres, and sparked extensive development throughout southern Beaufort County and now Jasper County.

Regional input is needed because the quality of life and well-being of people throughout the region are at stake.

What happens at East Argent also is important to Bluffton, Beaufort County, Jasper County, Ridgeland and Hilton Head Island. They need to speak up now with suggestions and concerns.

Hardeeville quietly released this bombshell in a holiday-week news release. The town’s development agreement on the tract could be finalized next month.

Like the public, we do not know enough about it.

But we know a lot of boxes that need to be checked.

Show the public how the S.C. Department of Education, and Beaufort and Jasper counties, plan to avoid gridlock or lessen traffic congestion caused by the East Argent development.

Show the public the plan for future roads, schools, parks, open space, flood control, and public safety providers.

Show the public more than where all that infrastructure will be located. Show who is going to pay for it, when, and where the money will come from. Will it be property taxes, sales taxes, bond referendums, impact fees, property-transfer fees, or what?

Show the public all the details of a development agreement that was all but complete when the development was first announced.

Show how the development agreement could be renegotiated as needs change in coming years.

Show what environmental-protection agencies have to say.

Certainly, Hardeeville has been working on this.

But, unlike the game-changing development of Sun City, this one may not be done by a single developer with a well-polished plan for producing large “cities” with their own road system, recreation complex, auditorium and security.

Hardeeville has before it an opportunity. It could result in a large tract being planned better than if it were developed in smaller pieces.

Hardeeville also has before it a great burden to see that the quality of life in an already-stressed area, with much more development already approved, is not ruined. It should seek input from all the other governments representing people with skin in the game.

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