This month, we are tipping our hats to local government for listening to their constituents and taking action to protect natural resources, rural places, and community quality of life. Recent action by Beaufort County, Jasper County, and the Town of Port Royal warrants a round of applause. The leadership demonstrated by each respective council proves local government can make a difference when it comes to safeguarding what makes our corner of the Lowcountry so special.
It is heartening to see elected officials across the South Coast region doing their due diligence to protect our natural resources and rural communities. Of course, these decisions wouldn’t be made possible if these elected officials did not know the community opinion. Your voice as a community member makes a difference. When government, individuals, and partner organizations all work together, it is incredible what we can accomplish.
— Grant McClure, South Coast Office Project Manager
Beaufort County Council Shows Resolve for St. Helena
On June 26th, the Beaufort County Council voted 8-2 to deny an amendment to remove the over 500-acre Pine Island property from the Cultural Protection Overlay zone on St. Helena Island to facilitate a luxury, gated golf resort. But the battle is not won yet — two lawsuits have been filed in connection with the development denials.
Pine Island Property Holdings, LLC and Pine Island GC, LLC filed two lawsuits early this month: an administrative appeal of the denial of plans for three (3) 6-hole golf courses on the property as well as a civil complaint challenging the CPO and seeking damages against the county, both filed with the Beaufort County Circuit Court of Appeals.
The administrative appeal seeks to overturn the Beaufort County Planning Commission’s denial of plans for three 6-hole courses on the property and the civil complaint alleges mistreatment by Beaufort County and questions the validity of the CPO.
Over the past six months, the Conservation League’s South Coast office has worked with St. Helena residents, Gullah/Geechee community leaders, and a coalition of historic preservation and conservation groups to encourage County Council to follow their own law and deny a special exception from the CPO. This exception would have allowed a luxury, gated golf resort to be built on Pine Island. The Council reaffirmed what the CPO has stated plainly since 1999: golf, resorts, and gated communities are not allowed on St. Helena Island.
The Conservation League supports Beaufort County in their decision to uphold longstanding protections in place since 1999, designed by and for the community to safeguard Gullah/Geechee culture and St. Helena’s rural lands, working farms, and rich maritime heritage. We stand prepared to continue to defend the CPO and the Planning Commission and Council’s decisions.
Jasper County Combats Growing Pains
The late state Senator Clementa Pinckney recognized the natural beauty of his native county, when he once said, “Jasper County quietly boasts enchanting coastal plains filled with spreading moss-covered live oaks, supple palmettos and stately pines.”
Jasper County Council made it clear those natural resources are not to be taken for granted by enacting a temporary 9-month moratorium on certain development in an area known as the Euhaw Broad River Planning Area. The League commends the Jasper County Council for taking action to strengthen and update its protections for rural lands during this 9-month moratorium period.
The ordinance, adopted by Jasper County Council officially at their June 20th meeting, notes concerns related to the impacts of new subdivisions, commercial, and residential development in greenfield areas. This can overburden infrastructure and evacuation routes, increase stormwater runoff, and result in the loss of open space. This newly established planning area encompasses the Hwy. 170 corridor to the municipal boundaries of Hardeeville on Hwy. 170, and extends northward along Hwy. 462 to Coosawhatchie.
The push to preserve and protect this gem of Jasper County was championed by a grassroots community group known as Keep Chelsea Rural in concert with a landowner group, the Broad River Task Force. The Conservation League has worked alongside the Keep Chelsea Rural group since the early 2000’s. We look forward to continuing this partnership with the shared goal of protecting and preserving Jasper County’s Rural and Cultural land from uncontrolled overdevelopment.
Town of Port Royal Protects County’s Largest Oak
In June, the Town of Port Royal proclaimed their support for permanent protection of the Cherry Hill Oak. The Cherry Hill Oak is Beaufort County’s largest live oak and by some measurements is bigger than John’s Island’s famous Angel Oak. Cherry Hill Oak is a massive fixture towering over a 12-acre property abutting Battery Creek. The property also features the grave of Mary Pope, who lies at the base of the Cherry Hill Oak.
Thanks to a collaborative effort between local government, community, and conservation groups, this property is well on its way to being a publicly accessible passive park for all residents and visitors to enjoy.
Alarmingly, this tract was targeted for development as recently as last fall, when a Charlotte-based firm sought to build a 3-story apartment complex.
Renderings presented to Port Royal’s Design Review Board showed traffic circulating around the base of the Cherry Hill Oak. The Conservation League, members of the Pinckney Retreat neighborhood, and arborist Michael Murphy all spoke out against the height variance request that would allow this, which was eventually denied. The developers walked away from the project and the owners soon after filed an application with the Beaufort County Rural & Critical Lands Program.
The Conservation League is grateful for Hope Cunningham, a Port Royal community member who established the Friends of the Cherry Hill Oak Foundation to assist with stewardship and maintenance of the Cherry Hill Oak property. We are also thankful to the Port Royal Town Council for its recent proclamation, as well as recent investments in infrastructure and landscaping.
Hilton Head Town Council Meeting
3:00 p.m., Town Hall, 1 Town Center Court, Hilton Head Island
St. Helena Island Community Celebration
6:30p.m-8:00p.m., Penn Center Campus, 16 Penn Center Cir W., St. Helena Island
Hear St. Helena Island updates, and learn from property tax professionals. Light refreshments will be provided.
Beaufort City Council Meeting
7:00 p.m., Beaufort City Hall, 1911 Boundary Street, Beaufort
Jasper County Council Meeting
6:30 p.m., Clementa C. Pinckney Government Building, 358 3rd Ave, Ridgeland
Bluffton Town Council Meeting
5:00 p.m., Henry “Emmett” McCracken, Jr Council Chambers, 20 Bridge Street, Bluffton
Port Royal Town Council Meeting
6:30 p.m., Town Hall, 700 Paris Avenue, Port Royal
Beaufort County Council Meeting