In a unanimous vote Beaufort County Council approved funds to buy the first phase of a two parcel piece of land on the headwater of the Okatie River in Bluffton. The land located on Highway 278 and the Okatie River, including the land east and west of the Hampton Parkway ,will now be left undeveloped.
Before the purchase, this land was zoned for residential and commercial use through the Buckwalter Planned Unit Development Agreement. Development along the River is a concern for preservation groups after the SC Department of Health deemed it an impaired waterway back in 1995. Since then no shell fishing has been allowed due to pollutants found in the water. Experts say the pollutants can be attributed to rapid development of land and quick growth in the area.
The land owners were interested in conserving the land, and after long negotiations with the Beaufort County Rural and Critical Land Preservation Program, they agreed to sell the properties at a bargain price. The $1.8M for Phase I is approximately 75% of its appraised value. The owner has agreed to Beaufort County buying Phase 1 as well as options to buy the final 2 parcels in Phase II, after the November bond referendum. The second and third parcels of land will be purchased for $1.5M and $1.4M respectively, less than 75% of appraised value.
The purchase of land includes 30 acres of uplands with all of the freshwater wetlands and salt marsh associated with the properties. It will effectively extend the Okatie Regional Park around the entirety of the river’s headwater, creating a regional open space and natural preserve for the residents of Beaufort County.
For more information regarding the land purchase please contact Garrett Budds at the Beaufort County Open Land Trust at 843-521-2175.