South Carolina Environmental Law Project

Lawyers for the Wild Side of South Carolina

Development Plans Threaten Sensitive Pocotaligo River and Sands Beach
Posted: March 26, 2019

Pocotaligo River

This issue involves a large planned unit development project located in Jasper County on the Pocotaligo River. Formerly known as The Settings at Mackay Point and now known as Rivers Reach, the project has a long and storied history but in short, the former developer went under during the financial crisis, Jasper County went to court over the bond money for the project and was successful in obtaining a ruling that the bond proceeds must be used to finish installation of the ground infrastructure for phase 1 where lots had already been sold, but that work has never been actually or properly completed.

The site has essentially sat dormant for many years until recently when the new owner sought permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to construct 15 oversized docks each with extensive walkways between 300-1,000 feet in length, covered pierheads, floating docks and boatlifts to store 2-4 boats. In total, the proposed dock square footage is over 72,000 square feet.

This project is concerning for a number of reasons from the extensive wetlands located on the property, to the fact that it proposes to introduce over 400 residential lots to a largely rural and undeveloped area, and that the Pocotaligo River is a shallow, winding and relatively narrow waterway currently lined with largely protected properties and little to no structures. The proposed oversized docks would be located at the headwaters of the River and essentially lines its banks for a significant distance.

We are currently working with the Corps and DHEC to document our concerns with this project and ensure the applicant possesses all necessary authorizations in connection with any work on the property and that any such permit applications are reviewed with careful scrutiny. At the same time, we are going to be working with the County, local land trusts and local landowners in an attempt to secure permanent protection for this sensitive and valuable area.

Sands Beach

This issue involves the redevelopment of the Port property in the Town of Port Royal. Specifically, that redevelopment includes a proposal to construct 13 residential lots on a less than 5-acre parcel along Sands Beach Road that is largely marshland and subject to frequent inundation. This is clearly demonstrated by the recently placed survey stakes outlining proposed lots.

The property owner allegedly holds a King’s Grant for the property and has indicated that permits are not needed in order to develop the property, a contention which we vigorously dispute. We have been in touch with DHEC with regards to this project and are pleased to see that they are taking a decidedly active role in ensuring all necessary authorizations are obtained before any work is done. Meanwhile, we are also hopeful that we may be able to work with the developer to identify a solution that would allow this property to remain in its natural state.