City desires property

Published 7:22 am Saturday, July 31, 2010

Contributing Editor

Washington is proceeding with plans to buy the property that once housed the Beaufort County Ed Tech Center near the Bobby Andrews Recreation Center on East Seventh Street.
“The purchase and sales agreement for the Old Ed Tech building and property was accepted by Mr. Michael Lowe, owner of HealthPlus Therapeutic Services, Inc. on July 8, 2010,” wrote City Manager James C. Smith in a July 15 memorandum to Mayor Archie Jennings and the City Council.
The agreement puts the purchase price at $175,000.
Jennings, in a brief interview Thursday, said the property’s best use likely would be recreational, considering its proximity to the recreation center and adjacent skatepark, or some other land use compatible with other activities in the area.
Smith’s memorandum noted the city may face some environmental-related risk in obtaining the property.
“The best information I have from unofficial sources is that the former service station was not on this land. In addition the new sewer line connection to Carver Machine was run in this vicinity also, and to the best of our knowledge did not encounter any petroleum pollution. I would feel comfortable in proceeding with this acquisition without an environmental assessment. However, you should be aware of the risk involved as laid out in the City Attorney’s letter,” Smith wrote.
Lowe purchased the 3.44-acre site, planning to develop it for use as a treatment center that would serve clients with primary diagnoses of mental illness, severe emotional and behavioral disorders or substance abuse-related disorders, and who may have co-occurring disorders, including developmental disabilities. Such clients do not meet criteria for acute in-patient psychiatric services.
During a meeting in April, the council voted 4-1 to deny a request to the change the zoning classification of the former Beaufort County Ed Tech Center property residential to office and institutional.
Council members Doug Mercer, William Pitt, Gil Davis and Bobby Roberson voted to deny the request. Councilman Ed Moultrie voted against denying the request.
The rezoning request was made by Lowe.
In May 2009, the council unanimously rejected a rezoning request that would have opened the door for HealthPlus Therapeutic Services to operate a high-security group-care treatment center on the property in question.
In March 2009, HealthPlus’ request for a special-use permit to operate the treatment center was denied by the Board of Adjustment. HealthPlus sued the city over that decision.