ST. HELENA ISLAND — A Dec. 8 ruling by Judge Diane Goodstein will allow eight individuals to participate in pretrial mediation over a controversial plan to build a golf resort on the property widely referred to as Pine Island.
The process, known as intervention, starts with filing a motion to intervene that must be heard and decided upon by a judge.
“It was the only fair decision that could be made under the circumstances because the law allows for intervention from interested parties. It’s fair,” said Theresa White, an applicant to intervene and founder of the Pan-African Family Empowerment & Land Preservation Network Inc.
State Sen. Margie Bright Matthews, D-Walterboro, represented all eight individuals when she filed a motion to intervene in November. She argued in her motion that the applicants all had a substantial interest in the outcome of the issue before the court, which is a standard that must be met before status as an intervener can be granted.
In an email to The Post and Courier, Leslie Lenhardt, an attorney with the South Carolina Environmental Law Project who represents the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition, was less convinced that the applicants were qualified to intervene.
“While we disagree that the proposed intervenors meet the standard of substantial interest, we don’t think this will impact the legal process in any significant way,” Lenhardt wrote.
The matter before the court pertains to a request to build three six-hole golf courses on the 502-acre Pine Island property. The county denied the request in April, stating that the golf courses didn’t comply with the standards of the county’s Community Development Code. Specifically, the golf courses contradicted the St. Helena Island Cultural Protection Overlay, which prohibits the development of golf courses, gated communities and resorts within the overlay zone.
The property’s owner, Pine Island Property Holdings LLC, and the developer, Pine Island GC LLC, appealed the county’s decision to the Beaufort County Planning Commission. The commission upheld the county’s decision during a June 5 meeting. An appeal of the commission’s ruling is now pending in the Beaufort County Court of Common Pleas. Beaufort County and the Beaufort County Planning Commission were named as defendants in the appeal.
The Dec. 8 hearing was held virtually and lasted less than 30 minutes.
Bright Matthews alluded to the fact that the Coastal Conservation League, the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition and the Penn Center, along with several St. Helena Island landowners, were granted status as interveners on behalf of the defendants in a September decision by Judge R. Lawton McIntosh. She was there, she said, to represent eight people who were interested in moving the development project forward.
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