Thursday, October 30, 2008

Here's a Classic Case of the TIME LINE !!

The process for a new development n Beaufort County can takes years to get a project form concept to starting on the actual development. Below are a few articles from the Island Packet reporting the news of just one recent project. Okatie Village. However it does not go into the time and money it took the developers to just get to this stag. The developer had to hire land planners, engineers, environmental consultants to assess wetlands, consult with the Core of Engineers, DHEC, Beaufort County, OCREM, Fire Department, School District and many other government agencies. They would come up with a conceptual idea review it with numerous agencies and then change it based on comments, review again, change based on comments, and change the concept again. The government agencies will not say exactly what they would approve but only what they would like to see. A lot times what they want to see and what the market would buy are not always the same. It is true with the developers, what they think is happening with the market and what is happening by the time they start building could have changed in two years. We are certainly in such a situation now. Our market has slowed down because of a lot of reason, harder to finance, less people moving to the area because their home is not selling, how much they can spend on a new home today has gone down, fortunately for them so have our prices.

So what does this mean for you and me. We as citizens of Beaufort County need to make sure that our local government is looking out for us. We cannot buy up all of the undeveloped land in Beaufort County so we need to make sure what is developed is done in an environmentally sensitive way with the least amount impact on the environment. Less density, more runoff retention, natural filtration in the runoff ponds IE: hire biologist to recommend what kind of natural fish, plant vegetation, and other means will filtrate the water best before it goes into our swamps and rivers. Do not allow clear cutting, require that lots keep the trees that are currently on the property and do your best to build to lot. The constituents of Beaufort County need to make sure our local governments are doing the over site work necessary to make sure the developments are being built correctly. Be a good neighbor and keep your eyes on what is going on.

A better Beaufort County only means a better place for us to all live and the "Lifestyle" is what we have to sell. So lets keep it that way.

Charlie Fraser
Property of and all rights belong to Charlie B. Fraser

County requires developer to make sure all workers are legal
Published Tuesday, September 9, 2008
For the first time, Beaufort County is requiring developers to verify that all workers on a job site are legal as a condition of getting the go-ahead on a project.
County Council on Monday injected the issue of workers' immigration status into agreements with the two developers of the proposed 1,252-home Okatie Village community on S.C. 170. The developers, Hilton Head Island's Jim Robinson and La Casa Real Estate Development, agreed to the requirement.
Several immigration attorneys in the state, county officials and a spokeswoman for the state Chamber of Commerce said the provision is a first in South Carolina.
However, a local attorney said the agreement could be vulnerable to legal challenges.
Council members insisted on the language during negotiations regarding Okatie Village as one of the concessions the developers had to make in exchange for getting permission to build more homes and retail space than is allowable under county zoning rules. Three separate agreements with the same language on worker verification were approved Thursday by the council's Land Management Committee. Those three agreements were approved by the council Monday on the first of three required readings.
"Verification of status may be demanded on the site at any time" by the developers of the property, as well as the county, the agreements states.
The agreements also require "contractors and subcontractors to sign sworn affidavits that all workers in their employ have been verified as to legal status ... "
County administrator Gary Kubic explained the reasoning behind the requirement, saying, "A lot of the situations involving illegal workers are in the residential housing industry. That's why the provision is in there."
Traditionally, verifying the status of workers has been left to employers and federal immigration authorities. Hilton Head immigration attorney Melissa Azallion of Nexsen Pruet Adams Kleemeier said allowing a developer to check the status of workers employed by a construction company is "legally problematic" and raises privacy and discrimination issues.
Kubic said the county's legal representative, McNair Law Firm is still reviewing the development agreements and will weigh in on the legality of the provision by the council's next vote on Okatie Village, which is scheduled for Sept. 22.
Kubic said he has no problem with the county being on the front line of the immigration debate going on in the state. The county has also made waves with a program that audits businesses for federally-required immigration documents.
"We like to consider ourselves in Beaufort County as being on the cutting edge."

Okatie Village developers agree to pay county $10.7 million
Published Friday, September 5, 2008
BLUFFTON -- Developers of a 1,252-home community on S.C. 170 have agreed to pay $10.7 million in fees to Beaufort County.
On Thursday, the County Council's Land Management Committee voted 6-1 to recommend the full council approve the development agreements for Okatie Village.
Basically, a development agreement is a concession from both sides. In this case, the two developers -- Hilton Head Island's Jim Robinson and LaCasa
Real Estate Development -- wanted to build more homes and
commercial property than were allowed under county rules.
To do that, they agreed to give the county $6.7 million for public school construction and an additional $4 million to be used by the county for other costs.
Committee chairman Skeet Von Harten said at least
$1.85 million of the $4 million will go toward road improvements along S.C. 170, since Okatie Village residents would contribute to the increased traffic and
deterioration of the highway.
The developers also agreed to set aside 32 homes and 34 apartments at affordable housing rates, which are set by the federal government. The cheapest of those homes would go for $185,000.
The developers also will allow Hilton Head Regional Habitat for Humanity to build homes on three lots and provide an acre to the county for what will be a public safety building and possibly a fire station at Okatie Village, and a right-of-way that would allow for the widening of S.C. 170
Von Harten, who also sat on a three-person county subcommittee which negotiated the agreements, spoke out strongly in favor of the planned
He called the deal a good one, saying the county had gotten serious concessions from the developer.
"If I were on the side of the (developer) I would have tried to get away with doing less."
He also cited the fast pace of growth of nearby Hardeeville, which has been annexing land at a steady clip in recent months, some of it in Beaufort County.
Okatie Village would include shopping and a grocery store. Robinson has promoted the village as a new type of development that takes cars off the road, promotes walking and biking and is eco-friendly.
In that vein, the developers agreed to extend water and sewer lines to neighbors along nearby Cherry Point Road, a number of whom oppose the Okatie Village plans.
Councilwoman Laura Von Harten, who is not a committee member but attended the meeting, said, "I know this is going to be difficult for some of the local residents to stomach. But we're going to have to make room for folks coming to Beaufort County, and the best way to do that is through orderly planning."
Steve Baer, the lone vote against the agreements, said he took exception to the increased density. The properties, currently zoned to allow for one home per 3 acres, would have 4.4 homes to the acre under the developers' proposals.
"What we're really doing is creating Okatie City along S.C. 170 ... or Bluffton 2, or whatever you want to call it."

Okatie Village wins initial approval
Published Thursday, June 26, 2008
Reversing a stance it took in March, the Beaufort County Planning Commission on Wednesday gave the thumbs up to a proposed Okatie development that would add 1,252 homes to the area.
The commission's 4-to-2 vote means plans for Okatie Village, a mixed-use project along S.C. 170, will come to the Beaufort County Council with a positive recommendation. A firm date for council consideration hasn't been set.
Because of the strain the development could place on the highway and on local public schools, the commission also recommended County Council require the developer to pay fees to cover those costs before giving the project a final go-ahead.
"I need to be made comfortable on the schools. I need to be made comfortable on the road," said commission chairman Jim Hicks, who voted for the proposal.
For one member of the council, location was a sticking point.
"Rural land south of the Broad (River) is kind of like lips on a chicken; it's very hard to find," said Chechessee commissioner Parker Sutler.
Sutler voted against the proposal, pointing out that the vast majority of southern Beaufort County already is developed.
The other vote against the project came from commissioner Brian Flewelling, who on Tuesday won the GOP's nomination for the council seat held by Skeet Von Harten. Flewelling said the county is still catching up to several years of explosive growth that have boosted county infrastructure costs.
The commission normally would vote only once on a development proposal. After the March vote, County Council wanted the panel to review a study presented by the developers that showed it would have a more positive financial impact than county projections suggested.
Developers have promoted the project as a new approach to growth in the county. Neighbors, they say, could shop at a new grocery store, children could walk to nearby Okatie Elementary School and some residents could work at the businesses that would rise in the community.
Several residents from nearby Cherry Point Road, who have persistently trekked to Beaufort for meetings on Okatie Village, did so again Wednesday to ask that the land remain rural.
After the vote, resident Cathy Scott said she'd continue to lobby against the project when it moves to the
County Council's land management committee.
"We don't give up that lightly," Scott said.

More talks set on proposed Okatie development
Published Friday, July 25, 2008
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.
Bluffton sees future in proposed "green" community
Published Monday, September 8, 2008

When Hilton Head Island was first being developed more than 40 years ago, planners in communities like Sea Pines paid close attention to the impact construction had on the environment.
Planners wanted to maintain a natural setting by building around stately trees and fragile wetlands. Homes were designed to blend into the natural setting.
But as more developers came to the island -- and later, to Bluffton -- that philosophy started to fade, some planners have said.
Now, with a certified "green" community likely coming to Bluffton, those original guiding principles may be making a comeback.
Developers of Garvey Preserve, which has received Bluffton Planning Commission approval and a preliminary OK from the Town Council, plan to build 68 homes on 98 acres using closely monitored, environmental standards.
The council will likely give its
final approval later this month to
annex and zone those 98 acres, west of S.C. 46 and S.C. 170 along the New River.
If that approval is granted, Garvey Preserve would become the first community of its kind in South Carolina -- a community former planning commission chairman Don Blair hopes will become a model for the county and the state.
"You can say, 'it's farmland, it's already green,' " said Blair, who still serves on the commission. "But development is going to happen in response to demand. People want to move here. We can't shut the door, obviously. We can try to make the quality of development as high as we possibly can in response to those people's needs."
The project would require third-party certification that each step of the development process is completed according to standards for protecting the environment in a coastal
Each criterion earns points for the project from the EarthCraft Communities Program. The project must earn a minimum number of points to be certified as green.
For example, the site is graded on its proximity to public transportation and bike paths. It would receive points for being connected to public sewers rather than septic systems, for adhering to strict stormwater guidelines and for availability to parks. Points are also earned for preserving trees, minimizing street width and public parking, and maximizing open space, among other things.
Truitt Rabun Jr., a landscape architect involved in the project, said Garvey Preserve already meets the numbers required for certification.
Current Beaufort County zoning of the site allows 39 homes to be built on the land; plans for Garvey Preserve call for 68.
The developer, Quinnco Companies, originally asked Bluffton in December to annex the land and zone it to allow
92 residential lots.
Since that December request, Quinnco has overhauled plans for the site -- designs that members of planning staffs from Hilton Head Island and Beaufort County have approved of in letters sent to Bluffton staff. Both the island and the county were notified of Quinnco's plans as a courtesy. Jasper County
officials were also notified of the plans, but it is unclear if officials there have responded.
Plans now call for the homes to be built in clusters to allow more open space, Rabun said. Quinnco still would be allowed to build more houses in Bluffton than it would have as a part of the county. Blair said after a recent planning commission meeting that the increase in density is justified because of the green building approach.
He also said Bluffton's planning staff would accompany third-party inspectors to periodically review the development process.
Certified green homes cost an average of 5 to 7 percent more to build, according to national estimates. It is not clear how much homes in Garvey Preserve will cost. Its development plan allows it to be a gated community, but it is also unclear if it will be.

Comments property of Charlie Fraser

The above article was in the Island Packet in September. I want to applaud the developers for wanting to use good land planning practices for new developments in the Bluffton area.

I just hope they do not fall in the same category as the large "Track Builders" and come in and clear entire areas to build and then plant a few trees and grow some grass.

The City of Bluffton needs to make sure they are doing all that they can to control and supervise the new developments coming along in Bluffton to make sure they are environmentally sensitive. The better job they do in approval and over site the nicer Bluffton will be for us all.

Citizens of Bluffton need to get and be diligent in making sure the developers do what they say they intended to do.

The City of Bluffton has benefited from the good developers who have the foresight to hire the best land planners, engineers and builders. John Reed and his team have done an excellent job in the communities they have developed.

So make your voice heard and make sure the City follows through with the over site.

Charlie Fraser BIC

cell . 843.290.0807
office . 843.671.3312