Local Life: Historic Beaufort Foundation gives local history renewed life

jgood@historicbeaufort.orgApril 30, 2012 

Historic Beaufort Foundation has a vested interest in achieving the best future redevelopment of the properties in the Historic District that adjoin the Bladen Street Redevelopment District.

Why? Because our existence as an advocacy organization dictates our support of the long-term health of the Historic District.

The district would become nothing more than an artifact of the past without renewed life breathed into it through appropriate redevelopment and restoration.

We believe that can be accomplished best by retaining a board of residents schooled in the guidelines and standards for appropriateness for oversight and review of the Bladen Street district -- thus the Historic District Review Board.

Historic Beaufort Foundation's concerns go beyond the two parcels rezoned by City Council this week.

Our fear is the potential expansion of the Bladen Street Redevelopment District throughout the Historic District.

Some on the council have implied that any parcel in the Historic District might be subject to rezoning to Bladen Street Redevelopment standards and be removed from review board oversight.

A recommendation to place boundaries on the Bladen Street District was made by the City of Beaufort-Town of Port Royal Metropolitan Planning Commission to City Council.

The Commission also voted against adding the two additional parcels in the Bladen Street District.

We strongly concur with its recommendations and furthermore believe it is critical to place boundaries.

Without defined boundaries, what is to stop the expansion of the Bladen Street District further into the Historic District and the elimination of the separate citizens' review process? The answer is simple: Nothing.

The Bladen Street District is slowly creeping into the National Historic Landmark District and potentially eroding the historic fabric that many generations have worked so carefully to protect.

By removing properties from the purview of the review board, the character and quality of Beaufort and our National Historic Landmark District, and possibly the city's CLG status, is jeopardized.

We believe conflicting standards for infill development set a dangerous precedent for other properties in the Historic District.

If a project is appropriate, it will be approved by the review board.

A change in zoning is not necessary in order to rehabilitate a structure or redevelop a site.

It has been said that the review process is too onerous and inhibits development. That position is belied by the city's statistics.

From 2010 to 2011, 52 projects were presented to the review board; only two projects were denied, meaning the approval rate was 96.15 percent.

From 2009 to 2010, 71 projects were reviewed. Of those 71, nine were denied. That is an 88 percent approval rate for projects within the National Landmark Historic District.

From 2008 to 2009, the approval rate was even higher. In total, 67 Certificates of Appropriateness were reviewed.

Only one project was rejected, meaning the approval rate was a staggering 98.5 percent.

How can anyone argue that the review board is an obstruction when almost every project is approved?

There are ramifications for removing parcels from the Historic District, and the implications of such a decision could have a far-reaching effect on the integrity of the district.

Julie Good is the executive director of Historic Beaufort Foundation.

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