About 18 months ago, the question for the Alljoy community in the small, quiet corner of unincorporated Beaufort County was, “To pave or not to pave.”
That is no longer a question.
Alljoy will have paved sidewalks down the length of the road from Burnt Church to Thomas Lawton. The project is expected to be advertised for construction in the next couple of months and construction is expected to begin after March 2023.
The last public meeting, held Jan. 10 at the Bluffton Recreation Center, drew a number of neighborhood residents still dissatisfied with the project, some as much for the lack of attention to other long-term issues as for the project itself.
Myrtle Island resident Nancy Epps said the road and the speeding traffic are big problems, one of the issues being the speed limit. In speaking with Clark Henson, a representative from Infrastructure Consulting and Engineering, she said she believes there should be stop signs at both Shad Avenue and the end of Alljoy at Thomas Lawton.
“We’re just worried about the amount of traffic and the speed. We get a lot of people coming into our area, so they’re sightseers with a lot of bikes, bikers and everything, and they like to tour around. No one does anything about the speed limit. When was the last time you saw anyone stopped and given a ticket for speeding?” said Epps. “And our road has big holes in it. We’ve got big lakes in the road. They came and filled a couple of holes with leftover asphalt, but the road itself is just a huge mess. And there’s so much construction. We’ve got five houses under construction, which means 18-wheelers coming in with heavy loads, and just tearing the road up even more.”
Dave Brown, who lives in The Crescent, came down to see the project’s final phase.
“I think the plan looks good. Wide sidewalks are good. Maybe bikes and pedestrians can work together. I mean, it looks okay to me,” said Brown.
The width of the sidewalk was a big part of the project.
“It started out 8 feet and is now 6 feet,” said Henson. “Six feet solves everything. Most everything is kind of the middle ground. It’s a step in the right direction. Most people seem to be in favor from what I’ve seen so far, but I’ve got a few that are not in favor of it. They just don’t need it. Don’t want it.”
In response to a question regarding the decision about which side of the road the sidewalk was going, Henson said there were decisions about drainage, utilities, overall impact in general, as well as impacts, costs, and crossings.
For one group of residents in attendance, it is the drainage and the lack of connections to sewage lines that has raised their ire.
“What I’m not happy with is that they’re doing this instead of drainage and septic that we need more than anything in the world. That’s our concern,” said Debbie Keebler, who lives on Sailor’s Choice. “Most of the houses on Alljoy are on septic tanks, not connected to sewage lines.”
“And they don’t even clean the ditches,” said Tammy Ray.
Several people spoke up about the route of the path itself.
“Well, the biggest thing is it makes sense for them to come down Ulmer and go to Shad and go to the Rec Center,” said Ray. “That’s so the Rec Center can be enjoyed – instead of putting a sidewalk down Alljoy just so the marketing looks better for the Town of Bluffton to sell property. It makes no sense to come down all the way, except for marketing, and I know it is, because I’ve talked to a lot of real estate agents.”
Kathie Coburn pointed out the area was rather special.
“It’s just a small area with older homes and newer homes that have come in. But it was a fishing community, is what it was. And they’re killing the whole concept of what we have there,” she said.
Once people reach the end of Alljoy Road and make the turn, the view in front of them is the parking lot with the concrete boat ramp, and a small patch of sand.
“This one day, these people came by because they were reading about all this in the paper, and they were like, ‘Well, where’s the beach? We came down here to see the beach’,” said Coburn. “You know what the beach looks like. It’s not Hilton Head Island, that’s for sure.”
The Alljoy Road Pathway Project was one of 24 projects passed when county voters approved the 2018 One Cent Sales Tax Referendum. In 2019, due to lack of funding, Alljoy fell off the list when County Resolution 2019/22 set priorities. Prior to the referendum, however, a study was done and the Alljoy Road community responded for a need for a pedestrian/bike path along Alljoy Road due to safety concerns.
Whether locals want it or not, the project was voted on by any county resident who chose to cast their ballot.
“The project is here because it is a penny sales tax collected for all residents,” said Jennifer Bragg of J. Bragg Consulting, Inc. “It’s the citizens’ penny.”
Bragg added that all of the proposed design exhibits and other project information are available at beaufortcountypenny.com. Public comments can be made online at the above website, or by mail (Beaufort County Engineering Dept., 2266 Boundary St., Beaufort SC 29902), or by email (email@example.com) until Jan. 25. For more information, contact the Engineering Department at 843-255-2700.
Gwyneth J. Saunders is a veteran journalist and freelance writer living in Bluffton.