Professional, community input sought on proposed Beaufort form-based code

emoody@beaufortgazette.comMay 21, 2012 

Some residents hope community voices won't be overpowered by technocrats as the city of Beaufort seeks volunteers to help vet form-based code proposals expected to transform its zoning and planning.

A 400-page document, which county consultant Opticos created with input from residents, elected officials and planners, has been reviewed by city employees.

City officials want help with further edits from community members who have expertise in development, planning, construction and community improvement.

Form-based code focuses more on a property's appearance than traditional zoning, which tends to focus on how a property will be used. Craig Lewis of the city's Office of Civic Investment proposed last week the creation of a task force of 12 to 16 members to meet weekly for about six months "to provide the meat-and-potatoes edits."

"We want to make sure when it gets to level of adoption and the public, that we're not trying to hide anything," Lewis said. "We've got 400 pages, we're not intending to hide things, but things get buried."

About 200 pages of edits have already been produced by city planning employees, city manager Scott Dadson said. A block-by-block, neighborhood-by-neighborhood review is needed to make sure the code fits each unique area of the city, he said.

But the suggested make-up of the task force and its focus have some residents concerned. As many as 10 members would come from city boards or commissions, two to four would be developers or builders, and two would be "community leaders."

Erica Dickerson said local professionals should have input but suggested each neighborhood have a committee to go over the proposed code and consider how it will affect their lives and homes.

"We have such distinct neighborhoods and people who know what their neighborhood should be ...," said Dickerson, who is on the Historic Review Board.

Historic Beaufort Foundation board president Conway Ivy echoed those concerns. He said that while it wouldn't be practical to have a large committee, there could be a complementary effort to include the people living and working in the city.

After the proposed code has been edited for city use, it will face two votes by the City Council before it could take effect.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufort.

Related content:

Give public a voice in city's historic district, May 4, 2012

Neighbors oppose rezoning of near Whitehall Plantation, Feb. 28, 2012

Residents to get chance to speak on community appearance, Oct. 17, 2012

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