The state's environmental protection board sided with a Beaufort County restaurateur Wednesday in a bitter, long-running fight over a building a dock in Bluffton.
The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control board upheld a permit for the dock and boat lift after determining that Wilbert Roller had met state requirements. The structure, which was recently built, extends into a tidal creek near the site of the old ferry from Bluffton to Hilton Head Island. Roller has a restaurant near the dock.
County officials say Roller's dock could cause safety problems and make it harder for boats to navigate in the creek where the dock has been constructed. But Roller's attorneys said several commercial fishermen don't see a problem.
Roller and the county have been fighting for parts of two decades, according to testimony at Thursday's DHEC hearing. During the hearing, Roller called Beaufort County officials "liars."
Thomas Bendle, an attorney for the county, said Roller had been "underhanded" in efforts to build the dock. County officials have said previously they were disappointed in DHEC's staff for issuing the permit in August. The agency board agreed Wednesday that staff members had acted properly.
- Sammy Fretwell