Hilton Head Council votes to yank support for Bluffton Parkway flyover plan

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Hilton Head Council votes to yank support for Bluffton Parkway flyover plan

By BRIAN HEFFERNAN
bheffernan@islandpacket.com
Published Tuesday, February 19, 2013   |  673 Words  |  

The Town of Hilton Head Island Tuesday yanked its support for a flyover project that would connect U.S. 278 to the mainland at Bluffton Parkway.

In front of a standing-room-only crowd, Town Council voted 6-1 to revoke all prior support of the project and to request that Beaufort County stop it as it is currently designed. Only Mayor Drew Laughlin dissented.

"No matter where you go in the world, when you cross that bridge, you know you're coming home," said Councilman John McCann, adding that "so to destroy that view when you're crossing that bridge -- that's the biggest mistake we could make."

Lee Edwards, like McCann, has been one of the flyover's most vocal opponents on council.

"It's not the right design and we need to back up and start over." Edwards said.

"To say it won't be that bad, or it will be good enough--well, that is not good enough for here," he said.

Under the county's plans, two ramps would extend from Buckingham Plantation Drive, cross the marsh between the Gatherings and Buckingham Landing, and connect to the east and westbound lanes of U.S. 278 similar to an interchange on an interstate highway.

The project, which county voters endorsed as part of the 2006 penny transportation tax referendum, is expected to cost about $45 million. The total includes a $36.7-million construction contract, about $4 million in construction management costs and a $4-million contingency budget for overruns and improved aesthetics.

The county plans to use money from impact fees, sales tax revenue and $15 million in state and federal aid to build the project.

County administrator Gary Kubic said he did not yet know what council's decision would mean for future of the project. It will depend on the recommendations given at the county's public facilities meeting Friday and at the County Council meeting Monday, Kubic said

"Every choice has a consequence . And one of the consequences may be that we decide that the alternate plan cannot be accomplished ... or we improve the aesthetics to the point where they are acceptable to the town," he said.

Hilton Head council members talked about exploring alternatives to the flyover design -- including a design proposed by County Councilman Stu Rodman. However, the time it would take to do the necessary environmental assessments, permitting processes and other preliminary work could take too long and cause the county to lose the $15 million in state and federal funding, according to town and county officials.

"I don't think anybody is going to give the flyover a second though, and I don't think that Hilton Head will lose one visitor because of it," Laughlin said. He said he supports the project because it was an investment in the future of the island.

He and council members Kim Likins and George Williams said that to now oppose the project was to ignore the majority's wishes in the 2006 penny tax vote that funded the project. Both Likins and Williams later voted to pull support for the flyover.

Many island residents came to the meeting to voice their opposition to the flyover. Twenty one members of the audience spoke. Sixteen spoke against it.

Island resident Martha Pike called a rendering of the flyover design -- which was displayed on a screen above council -- a "monstrosity."

"The flyover probably wasn't heard by an awful lot of people when the referendum was made, and I think if the vote was taken again, you might see something radically different," she said.

"Thank goodness for the person who asked for this picture," said Jeff Norkus in reference to the mock-up. "Certainly this is not Hilton Head."

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