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Plans for a Publix grocery store on St. Helena Island have been scrapped, a company spokesman said Friday, following a letter-writing campaign opposing the development.'
"After reviewing the location, it has been determined that we will not be considering the site any further," Publix director of consumer relations Leslie Spencer wrote in a letter dated Oct. 23 to St. Helena Island resident Patti Armstrong. The letter did not give a reason for Publix's decision to abandon the proposed site.'
Publix spokesman Dwaine Stevens confirmed that Publix is no longer considering building a store on St. Helena Island, saying, "It wasn't the right business decision." He would not elaborate.'
The site's developer, The Paradise Group, could not be reached for comment Friday.'
Armstrong said she believed Publix executives hadn't realized the negative effect the proposed development could have had on the community. She credited a letter-writing campaign for bringing it to the company's attention. '
The campaign was initiated by Marquetta Goodwine, a spokeswoman of the Gullah-Geechee people of the Sea Islands.'
"(Publix executives) have been supportive of the Gullah culture here on this island previously, and I suspect they did not realize that (store) was going to be affecting the people on this island," Armstrong said. "Most of the native people on this island did not want ... a mini-mall with a Publix store when there's another one only 4 miles away."'
In addition to the Publix, which would have comprised 39,600 square feet, The Paradise Group was planning a development with nine stores totaling 18,000 square feet. The development was slated for a 9.2-acre wooded site near the northwest corner of Sea Island Parkway and Polowana Road.'
A 37,000-square-foot Publix on Lady's Island is about 4 miles west of the proposed St. Helena location.'
A unique Cultural Protection Overlay District was established on St. Helena Island in 1999 to prevent development that would detract from the island's historic character. The Corners community, where the Publix was proposed, is zoned to permit a grocery store of up to 40,000 square feet, according the overlay district.'
Goodwine, who was chairwoman of a community committee involved in creating the overlay district, said the zoning was intended to prohibit national chains like Publix.'
County Councilman William McBride, who represents the island, has said that prohibiting national retailers would be illegal. He added that he did not think the store would detract from the cultural context of St. Helena Island.'
"The opposition (to the Publix) is being spearheaded by Marquetta Goodwine, otherwise known as Queen Quet, and her network of mostly out-of-area and out-of-state residents," McBride wrote in a piece in today's Beaufort Gazette. "These people do not represent the general population of St. Helena Island. Everywhere I go -- the post office, barber, dry cleaners, gas station or church -- people express strong support for this new store."'
He said the store would have provided employment opportunities, reduced traffic on U.S. 21 and created a convenient shopping option for people without cars.'
Neither McBride nor Goodwine could be reached for comment Friday.