South Carolina Environmental Law Project

Lawyers for the Wild Side of South Carolina

Beaufort County Rejects Bay Point Island Development Proposal
Posted: December 20, 2019

For immediate release

One of South Carolina’s last undeveloped barrier islands is no place to build a luxury resort.

Bay Point Island will, for now, remain pristine and untouched after Beaufort County staff determined that a developer’s plans to build a luxury resort on the dynamic barrier island was inconsistent with the County’s development code.

Thailand-based Six Senses Hotels and Resorts proposed their facility as an “Ecotourism” destination, which may be an allowable use under the island’s current zoning, but County staff determined that “the use in question is not an Ecotourism use,” Community Development Director Eric L. Greenway, AICP wrote in a Dec. 10 letter to the applicant.

According to the letter, “The narratives and concept plan show that the proposed use is primarily lodging/accommodations with some accessory outdoor recreation. In addition, the proposed development of this sensitive island is contradictory to the Eco-tourism definition because it does not promote ecological preservation, conservation, and/or sustainability but rather seeks to diminish those aspects through the implantation of this plan.”

Conservation groups, including the South Carolina Environmental Law Project (SCELP) and Coastal Conservation League, applaud the County’s decision.

“The County staff did the right thing to deny this ill-conceived project,” said SCELP Staff Attorney Jessie White. “This fragile ecosystem is a vital wildlife sanctuary and an important fishing area for the Gullah/Geechee. Bay Point must remain untouched by harmful development, and I am happy the staff was not swayed by this so-called ‘eco-friendly’ luxury resort.”

The developers have 30 days to appeal the staff determination to the Zoning Board of Appeals. Although we’ve learned that the County staff has given the developers another chance to plead their case before the Staff Review Team meeting on Wednesday January 15th, the County’s basis for its use determination is solid and opponents maintain there is no development that makes sense on a sensitive, shifting piece of land at the mouth of the Port Royal Sound.

“The staff's decision shows that they not only understand the actual requirements laid out in the code but also the underlying heart of the zoning requirements which is to protect Beaufort County’s special places,” said Rikki Parker of the Coastal Conservation League.

Building a resort on a barrier island vulnerable to sea level rise and increasing storm frequency would be irresponsible and short sighted. Further, the National Audubon Society has designated Bay Point as an Important Bird Area and can hold as many as 8,000 shorebirds, mainly due to the lack of human disturbance. In addition, 107 loggerhead sea turtle nests were recorded on Bay Point in 2019.

Media contact:
Leslie Lenhardt, Esquire
Staff Attorney
South Carolina Environmental Law Project
[email protected]
(843) 527-0078

The South Carolina Environmental Law Project protects the natural environment of South Carolina by providing legal services and advice to environmental organizations and concerned citizens and by improving the state’s system of environmental regulation.