Keeping Chelsea Rural
The almost 6,000-acre Chelsea property sold in 2019 for $30 million dollars to two brothers who pledged to manage the land as a hunting estate. Since then, the land transferred to a Missouri-based bank and has been shopped around to developers. Several large tracts have been carved out for development, including the 292-acre Chelsea South and 1520-acre Tickton Hall properties. Despite the Rural Preservation zoning, lack of infrastructure such as roads, water and sewer service–and significant community opposition from landowners and a grassroots coalition–developers are focused on forever changing this rural part of Jasper County.
What’s the Latest?
The late state Senator Clementa Pinckney recognized the natural beauty of his native county, stating: “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. 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 ordinance, adopted by Jasper County Council officially at their June 20th, 2023 meeting, notes concerns about the impacts of new subdivisions, commercial, and residential development in greenfield areas which can overburden infrastructure and evacuation routes, increase stormwater runoff, and result in the loss of open space. 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 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 dating back to the early 2000’s. We look forward to continuing this partnership “to protect and preserve Jasper County’s Rural and Cultural land from uncontrolled overdevelopment for the continued enjoyment of generations to come.”
The development agreement request for the Tickton Hall exceed anything imagined by current zoning and include 4,800 residential units with 580,000 square feet of commercial space along Coosaw Scenic Drive (S.C. Highway 462). The plans also entail up to 75 new docks on Euhaw Creek, a small tidal creek which drains into the Port Royal Sound watershed.
At nearly 10 miles from the Town of Ridgeland and with no water or sewer hook up available, Tickton Hall is the wrong location for rapid growth. Additionally, the proposed annexation into the Town of Ridgeland creates additional lines of contiguity that could facilitate more sprawl in the future.
If you’ve traveled along Hwy. 170 in the past few years, you know that this corridor is growing rapidly. The Chelsea South property is located in Okatie, right in the middle of that growth between Beaufort and Bluffton. Despite the increased traffic and ecological impacts, developers are seeking to rezone the Chelsea South Tract to allow for 4-times the density permitted by right. The development plans call for 438 single-family units, 269 multi-family units, and 384,000 squarefeet feet of mixed-use commercial and warehousing.
Notably, this 292-acre tract is adjacent to the BJWSA water canal which carries water from the Savannah River and supplies the entire region with water. Developers have proposed only a 20-ft buffer from the canal. The property is also a stones throw from Hazzard Creek, a small tidal creek closed to shellfish harvesting due to high levels of bacteria from a land fill. Future development stands to further degrade this embattled resource and jeopardize the water quality of the Port Royal Sound.
Now more than ever, we need to protect sites like the Broad River Corridor, offsetting the human footprint on our natural resources. Rapid growth pressures across Jasper County threaten once abundant wetlands and the landscapes that draw so many residents and visitors to the Lowcountry.
Jasper County prides itself on its tight-knit communities and rural character. Community leaders, landowners, and residents have expressed their desire to see picturesque Jasper County conserved, and the time to act is now.
In the News
Jasper Council gives final-reading approval to 270-day development moratorium (Bluffton Today, June 24. 2023)
Jasper Co. Council place moratorium on large residential development (WSAV, June 20, 2023)
Now SC’s fastest-growing, Jasper County close to tapping the brakes on development (The Post & Courier, June 12, 2o23)
Hilton Head developer proposes 4,800 new homes in this ‘secret place’ (The Post & Courier, April 7, 2023)
Maybe they want no part of our Xanadu (The Island News, April 26, 2023)
Editorial: SC’s rural counties should ensure developers don’t surprise them (Post & Courier, April 14, 2023)
Hilton Head developer proposes 4,800 new homes in this ‘secret place’ (Post & Courier, April 7, 2023)
Jasper County residents fighting proposed development near historic waterway (WSAV, January 2, 2023)