June 20, 2008

Watch Hardeeville Grow! Council Annexes 282 Acres

By Michael Welles Shapiro, The Island Packet, Hilton Head Island, S.C.

Jun. 20--Hardeeville annexed 282 acres in unincorporated Beaufort and Jasper counties Thursday, a move that could offer hope to those unhappy with Beaufort County's more restrictive zoning.

All four of the City Council's current members voted to expand Hardeeville's boundaries to include a McGarvey's Corner property at the northwest corner of the intersection of U.S. 278 and S.C. 170.

A fifth seat on the council is empty following the resignation of Bea Jones last month.

The council also unanimously approved an agreement that allows The Sembler Company, an Atlanta-based group, to develop the property.

A Sembler representative predicted last week the commercial project planned for the land could bring as many as 4,000 jobs and $250 million to the city.

Roughly 207 acres of the property are in Jasper County.

The remaining 75 are in Beaufort County.

Council members did not discuss the annexation or the development agreement before voting, and no resident spoke during time set aside for public comment. Thursday's votes were the second of two required readings.

The development agreement allows Sembler to put in commercial buildings and up to 1,000 housing units. Any housing would be in what was the Jasper County portion of the land, according to Ted Felder, Hardeeville's economic development director. That means the project will not add students to Beaufort County public schools.

The city's growing boundaries could trigger more annexation. Under state law, properties cannot be annexed unless they are adjacent to a city or town.

With Hardeeville's expansion, three property owners -- upset that Beaufort County won't allow them to build certain types of commercial businesses -- now are much closer to the Hardeeville line.

Melanie Martin Reeder, Dorothy Martin Porter and Kirk Martin, sisters who together own about 6 acres near the Sembler development, currently are suing the county for re-zoning their property in 2007.

That zoning decision barred them from building certain types of businesses including restaurants, hotels and grocery or liquor stores.

"I'm delighted to see this (the annexation) done," said Beaufort attorney Colden Battey, who represents the women.

Battey said he hopes the county's zoning decision is overturned. However, he said Hardeeville's expansion may offer the sisters a back-up plan.


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