OKATIE, S.C. (WSAV) — A new neighborhood could be coming to Okatie but with it brings some concern from neighbors and county council members.
The new housing development would sit right next to Okatie Elementary School.
“I’m concerned about the traffic on 170. I’m concerned about the schools. I’m concerned about the infrastructure,” Beaufort County Councilperson Anna Maria Tabernik said.
Four hundred new families could soon call Okatie home. However, with growth in the Lowcountry booming some in the community are worried.
Casey Kammer, a Bluffton resident, “It’s going to be creating a bottleneck when it’s in conjunction with the school. This community cannot go in here. We do not want them here,” said Casey Kammer.
Casey and her husband John moved to the area a year ago from Colorado.
“And our councilmen [Joe] Passiment needs to understand that he is not voting for what he wants or what the developers want, but what the people of Okatie want. And we do not want this here,” Casey said.
Bluffton has grown by 150% since 2010, meaning there are a lot more kids in schools. However, in the Beaufort County Schools referendum is a plan to build a new elementary school to make more room for students in the area.
Even with that schools around the Lowcountry are near or surpassing capacity levels, leading some to say the area can’t handle that much growth so quickly.
“They’re at 91% capacity. I understand if the referendum passes, they’re going to build more,” Tabernik said. “But we’re going to be bussing kids all the way down there. And as an educator, I’m not up for that. But also Bluffton Middle school is at 84%, May River’s at 91% capacity.”
The developers plan to build a back entrance to the neighborhood and an intersection at Riverwalk Boulevard which they say will actually ease traffic in the long run. The attorney representing them said this neighborhood is needed because the students already live in the area.
“This is not the field of dreams. We’re not building it so that they will come. The children are here,” Kevin Dukes said. “And this is going to provide an opportunity for these kids to walk. There’s not going to be the school buses. There’s not going to be the drop-off.”
John Kammer said he doesn’t doubt developers could reduce traffic inside the neighborhood but he and Casey only have one way out of their homes through Cherry Point Road. He said regardless they’ll get caught in traffic when they leave their home.
“We’re not so naïve to think that nothing’s going to ever go in there, It’s going to. But these things need to be taken care of,” John said. “We can’t just degrade the quality of life for everyone that’s already here. There’s already another neighborhood that’s going up that you saw on the way in. We don’t know what the impacts of that are yet, but we’re going to go ahead and put another 400 plus homes here and not understand any of this? It doesn’t make sense.”
Council members will talk about this potential new neighborhood on Sept. 25 at their council meeting. That meeting is happening at the Beaufort County Courthouse at 5 p.m.