Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Another Beaufort County screw-up in Pulte's favor


Work at Sun City was not approved by county

Published Sunday, August 17, 2008

Three construction projects done at Sun City Hilton Head weren’t formally approved by Beaufort County until long after they were completed, cutting out any chance for public input.

An expansion of the parking lot at the Hidden Cypress golf course was completed in mid-2006 and a second project to end a road as a cul-de-sac was finished last November, according to Pulte Homes, Sun City’s developer. A third project to change the design of the Pinckney Hall parking lot to add handicapped spots and save trees was finished in late spring, according to several Sun City residents.

The county’s Development Review Team approved the three projects July 2.

Asked about the projects, Pulte division president Jon Cherry said in an e-mail that Pulte had a discussion with county officials and it was agreed that the company would go ahead with its projects and then go to the county’s Development Review Team.

But county officials say that’s not what should have happened.

“We don’t want people to do things and ask for permission afterward,” said county planning director Tony Criscitiello, a member of the development panel.

“The Brown’s Bluff property is an example of what happens,” Criscitiello added, referring to an instance where a Bluffton property owner began putting in a riprap wall — an erosion control measure — on his property without a county permit.

Unlike that situation, however, Criscitiello said the county chose not to penalize Pulte.

“It was relatively minor, so the position of the county was not as dramatically opposed to what happened,” he said.

Nevertheless, county administrator Gary Kubic said he wants to know how Pulte was allowed to move forward on projects without permits.

“No one is exempt from the permitting process,” he said. Sun City resident Steve Grossberg also has questions.

“I’ve never seen anywhere where things are built, and then an approval meeting is held,” said Grossberg, who works for a construction and design consulting firm.

Grossberg, who lives near the Hidden Cypress parking lot that was expanded, said he and several of his neighbors were upset because a road in front of the golf course clubhouse that many residents used regularly was closed to accommodate the change.

Residents were informed about the project, Grossberg said, “but everybody here thought it was being done in a legal manner — until I pointed out that it wasn’t.”

In May, Grossberg wrote to Kubic and to zoning and planning officials, pointing out the change to the road. Grossberg said he was not aware of any public meeting at which the road change was approved.

He said he was upset because the parking lot expansion added to the distance he and his neighbors had to travel every time they went in and out of the community’s gates.

Estimating that 500 homes were affected by the change, Grossberg said, “When you think about how much energy’s wasted today, somebody should have asked, ‘Does it make sense to do that?’ That’s what government bodies are supposed to do.”

A Pulte representative said the re-routing of traffic would increase public safety by taking high-speed traffic out of several residential areas and would add to the longevity of Sun City’s road system.

But Grossberg said he should have had a chance to voice his opinion.

“The standard of operation is build it, then come to the county with what they’ve built, and that doesn’t leave any opportunity for a review process or for public comment,” he said.

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