July 25, 2008

More Talks Set on Proposed Okatie Development

By Jim Faber, The Island Packet, Hilton Head Island, S.C.

Jul. 25--After a two-hour discussion Thursday about a 1,252-home development along S.C. 170 at Okatie, it became clear that more discussion was needed.

Developers of Okatie Village met with a Beaufort County Council subcommittee to hammer out details on issues ranging from school impact fees to how much should be shelled out for widening S.C. 170.

At the end of the meeting of the Development Agreement Subcommittee, all that was certain was that an agreement would be drafted for each of the three parcels in the development -- Okatie Marsh, Osprey Point and River Oaks -- and that the developers and their attorneys would submit draft agreements within 10 days, if possible, to county staff.

One issue was what fees will be paid to the Beaufort County School District. The county is asking for $6,000 per home and $2.50 per square foot of commercial development. The developers' attorneys, Lewis Hammet for River Oaks and Osprey Point and Roberts Vaux for Okatie Marsh, said that fee is too high.

Hammet said the $6,000 figure was reached by the school district at the height of its growth in 2005 and 2006, growth that has fallen off in recent years.

Committee members Skeet Von Harten, Paul Sommerville and Jerry Stewart didn't give their opinions on the fees. Instead, Von Harten told the developers to

include their preferred number in the draft agreements.

The county also has said the developments should pay about $2.3 million to help offset the costs of widening part of S.C. 170. The developers' attorneys said their share of that project should be $1.8 million.

"There's only so many dollars to go around," Vaux said.

Such fees could make some of the homes designated as affordable housing too expensive because the costs would be passed on to property owners, the developers said.

None of the negotiations on Thursday was an endorsement of the project, committee members said. Developer agreements need to be reached so the council can have full information when voting on whether to rezone the area to a planned unit development.

While developers have promoted the project as a place where people can live, work and shop, several nearby residents have lobbied against it, stressing the need to keep the land rural.

The controversial development was rejected at Beaufort County Planning Commission in March before earning a thumbs-up in a new vote in June.


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