Beaufort residents concerned with houses near Southside Park in draft master plan

emoody@beaufortgazette.comApril 8, 2013 

  • Public meetings on master plan scheduled

    Public meetings on Beaufort's Civic Master Plan have been scheduled. All meetings will be in council chambers, City Hall, 1911 Boundary St.

    • Workshop, Sector 3 (South of Allison Road): 5:30 p.m. April 11
    • Workshop, Sector 4 and 5 (Boundary Street, Burton and Lady's Island): 5:30 p.m. April 22
    • Workshop, citywide: 5:30 p.m. May 1

As the city of Beaufort presents the draft of the Civic Master Plan that will guide future growth, some residents are noticing problems they want fixed.

That includes removing housing from renderings of Southside Park in Mossy Oaks, which the Southside Park Committee has opposed for more than a decade and may be illegal under restrictions on the land.

"It doesn't make sense for a lot of reasons," Metropolitan Planning Commission member Alice Howard said. "First, legally, can you do it? And then the people who attended the charrettes didn't want that to happen. ...Southside Park is such a large jewel."

Approximately 34 acres of land have been given to the city by the Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority for the park between Battery Creek, Waddell and Talbird roads and Southside Boulevard.

According to a 1999 restrictive covenant, the site of a former wastewater treatment plant and the then-proposed Southside Park was "dedicated in perpetuity as a park and recreational facility for the benefit of the city's residents, and not for any other purpose."

In 2009, city attorney Bill Harvey said homes cannot be built on the land unless the city and the utility company come up with a new agreement.

Housing along the edges of the park had been proposed as a way to offset park development costs. Residents at public meetings and work sessions opposed the idea, park committee chairman Brian Coffman said.

"It would be my preference not to do that," park committee member Connie Hipp said. "I know they say it's a way to get money to pay for that, but I don't think that's the way to do it."

Coffman said city officials have with working with the committee on plans for a passive park, but the designs in the Master Civic Plan don't reflect that.

"Obviously, it's a master plan, it's a concept," Coffman said. "But if it's something that's not ever going to happen, then there's no point in showing it that way and adopting it into the books."

Howard is concerned that comments by residents about the houses have not been incorporated into the plan. The draft Civic Master Plan was presented to the public last week during a Beaufort-Port Royal Metropolitan Planning Commission meeting. During the presentation, planners told the audience the homes would only require a small piece of park land and the rest would be private property.

" 'Oh, it's just a sliver of the land,' " Howard said they were told. "Well, that could be five acres, that could be 10 acres, when you have a 50-acre park."

Check back with The Beaufort Gazette and The Island Packet for updates to this story and follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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