Parking should be solved before redevelopment

info@islandpacket.comJanuary 18, 2013 

When it comes to planning in the city of Beaufort, timing isn't always everything.

But sometimes, it can be curious.

A scant three months ago, proponents of a conceptual design for a water-sports building in the Downtown Marina parking lot -- part of an update to the city's master plan -- argued the center was merely an expression of possibilities, not an obligation to build. Indeed, Councilman Mike McFee described as "ludicrous" the notion that updating the plan was tantamount to approving a 7,000-square-foot, landscape-altering building.

True, many steps still separate this plan from fruition. But on Tuesday, Redevelopment Commission chairman Jon Verity described to City Council his group's intention to begin gauging developers' interest in building on the city-owned parcel. While conceding developers might have ideas far different from those in the master plan, the designs contained in the plan would be part of the package potential developers can use to craft their proposals. In addition, Verity implied that informal discussions with potential developers had already taken place.

"Concept" is headed toward reality more quickly than some predicted.

It also seems George O'Kelley Jr. was more prophetic than McFee when he explained why he was the lone council member to vote against the master-plan update: "We voted for a concept, and now this concept is growing wings and feet and a tail and everything."

To be clear, we detect nothing untoward in these recent events. The master plan reflects a desire to redevelop the Downtown Marina. The Redevelopment Commission was created to spur redevelopment. Why shouldn't it work to fulfill the plan, rather than let it collect dust?

O'Kelley can think of one reason, and he's been joined by Mayor Billy Keyserling: A larger building at the Downtown Marina likely means fewer public parking spaces there; the city must first figure out what to do with the displaced motorists.

The council and commission Tuesday quickly dismissed asking potential developers of a water-sports center to solve that problem for them.

If one applauds the Redevelopment Commission for its quickness out of the gate, one must also wonder why its members didn't see what O'Kelley and Keyserling saw.

After all, a parking garage between West, Craven and Charles streets has been part of the city's master plan far longer than a water-sports facility.

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