Beaufort developer seeks to rezone part of Whitehall Plantation

emoody@beaufortgazette.comFebruary 20, 2012 

The city of Beaufort is considering rezoning six acres of land right next to the bridge on Ladys Island to allow business. The land in question is on the right immediately after driving over the swing bridge from Beaufort. The land on the other side was just purchased by the Beaufort County Land Trust for preservation.

JONATHAN DYER, THE BEAUFORT GAZETTE

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A developer wants another shot at trying to convert the Whitehall Plantation property on Lady's Island into a residential and business center.

But the Metropolitan Planning Commission recommended denial Monday of an attempt to rezone part of that property from single-family residential to neighborhood commercial.

The zoning request came from Aslan Whitehall LLC, a subsidiary of Blue Ridge Group Inc., which attempted to develop the property about six years ago, before the housing market crashed.

The zoning change is for property along Harborville Drive and Harborville Circle. The rest of the Whitehall property is already zoned neighborhood commercial. The land is to the west of Sea Island Parkway, just before the Woods Memorial Bridge.

Various developers have attempted to build on the property for more than 10 years. The city's master plan envisions Whitehall as a commercial and residential center.

The commission voted 3 to 1 against the rezoning, with Jim Crower in favor and Robert Semmler absent.

The property is in the city of Beaufort, and planning department staff recommended denying the request because of upcoming changes to its land-use rules, city planner Libby Anderson said.

The county and city are revamping land-use regulations in favor of "form-based code," which is different from traditional zoning in that it is based more on design than building use. City officials expect the new code to take effect this year. Anderson said the city's version of the code should be available for public review next month.

That recommendation upset the developer's attorney, David Tedder, who argued that since the current residential zoning does not comply with the city's master plan, it was the commission's duty to recommend a zoning change that does comply.

"I was just astounded to see, for once, we're not going to do what the comprehensive plan says," Tedder said.

Appropriate zoning is important for getting banks and development partners involved in the Whitehall development, he said.

The lots were originally developed as part of the Harborview neighborhood, but buildings on the land have been demolished. However, across Harborview Circle, Harborville homes remain. Commission member Jim Hicks said that residential area should be protected. He sees the residential zoning as a buffer for the homes and wanted to see a plan from Aslan Whitehall on how the property would be developed.

"To just make it a blanket move is dangerous and unfair to the rest of that little community there," Hicks said.

The rezoning request will go next to the City Council for consideration.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/EyeonBeaufort.

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