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BLUFFTON -- The fate of a polarizing development proposed for picturesque farmland at the end of Pinckney Colony Road apparently will be decided in the courts.'
Pinckney Point, 229 rural acres known to be home to bald eagles and armadillos, has been sold to Stokes, Bush & Barnes Land Co., an Atlanta developer. Plans for a 76-home construction project on the peninsula of the Okatie and Colleton rivers are set.'
The developer -- and a family and community divided over the proposal -- await the outcome of a lawsuit filed to determine who owns the dirt road leading to the land. Emotions about the issue remain high as one community member has charged that another attempted vandalism because of the dispute.'
John C. Pinckney owned the land. A spokesman for his immediate family has said John wanted his family to inherit it, but he was intent on selling the land to avoid estate taxes the family can't afford.'
Attempts to reach John on Friday and Saturday were unsuccessful.'
Meanwhile, David Pinckney, John's cousin, claims the dirt road leading to John's property is on a portion of his land.'
David, who is at the forefront of a community opposition to the development on the grounds that he thinks it will destroy the rural character of the area, '
erected fence posts on "his property line" in the middle of the road in October.'
The posts were set in the road in attempt to stop construction vehicles from passing through, David said. By erecting the posts, he reduced clearance to less than the 50 feet required by Beaufort County for access roads to construction projects.'
However, the county filed a lawsuit on Nov. 22 against several members of the Pinckney family. It seeks the removal of the posts from the road and a ruling on who owns the road. The county contends it's a public right of way.'
Lawyers on both sides of the civil suit agreed in late November to have the posts moved from the middle of the road. They have been relocated to the grassy area of the west side of the road.'
Depositions are expected to be made soon in the suit, which both parties say appears to be heading to trial. No date had been set for it to begin as of Friday.'
The developer, through a corporation called Pinckney Point LLC, purchased the land from John C. Pinckney for $10.6 million in late March. It is ready to break ground as soon as possible.'
Yet people on opposite sides of the issue continue to squabble while the project is in limbo.'
According to a report from the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office, Andy Pinckney, John's son, accused Julian Weston of dumping roofing tacks at the edge of John's driveway. Weston is president of the Pinckney Colony Neighborhood Association and an opponent of the development.'
The report states that tacks were dumped there twice in March. The case has been closed and no charges were filed.'
Calls to Andy Pinckney were not returned Saturday. Weston denied any involvement.'
"What would we gain from doing that?" he asked. "I thought it was a hoax."'
Weston has put together a Web site -- savepinckneycolony.com -- aimed at gathering support to attempt to stop the development, which he has said will ruin the area.'
But project developer Lee Barnes said he's surprised the community is not embracing the development, considering it's planned to be sensitive to the area and at a low density.'
"We plan to develop it in accordance to the existing rural zoning," he said. "The lots will be three gross acres per home. There's no condominiums. There'll be a lot of open space."'
Barnes said members of the Pinckney family have sold land before for developments of a higher density, such as Eagle's Pointe and Berkeley Hall.'
But Weston said he and several residents of Pinckney Colony plan to continue to fight the development in hopes to keep the land as is.'
"I feel like it's just started, really," he said. "Right now we're in reactionary mode, waiting on the outcome of the lawsuit."