'American Idol' aside, Beaufort has a lot going for it

mlutz@historicbeaufort.orgMay 24, 2013 

Focusing on all the good things in Beaufort has been the pastime of its residents in the past weeks, and it has been proven once again that Beaufort has the ability to come together in a variety of ways to support the greater community.

While many jumped on the exciting bandwagons that turned Beaufort into the home of an "American Idol" and the happiest seaside town, many also concentrated their enthusiasm for their home town on civic involvement with the city's proposed master plan and proposed form-based zoning codes.

Historic Beaufort Foundation applauds all endeavors that result in the high visibility of our historic and architectural resources and we are proud of all who bring positive attention to our community!

Especially to be commended are the scores of residents who appeared during the past weeks to examine closely what the proposed Civic Master Plan means for each of their very special neighborhoods. HBF knows its mission to advocate for and protect the National Historic Landmark District could not be achieved without the potency afforded us by the whole community's love of the district's historic and architectural resources. In other words, we could not accomplish our mission without the support of the entire community and we, in turn, support their desire to preserve all the neighborhoods that each exudes a distinctive sense of place.

Good questions were asked in the public meetings, and when the consultants come back to the Redevelopment Commission in early summer with changes to the plan, the public can decide whether good answers have been given and whether those answers reflect a direction in planning that makes sense for our community and values and respects all of our special neighborhoods.

Certainly it was a good thing that the Redevelopment Commission and the consultants acknowledged that the renderings for proposed redevelopment were only "concepts" for what could be built because some of the drawings were alarming to people - like the Downtown Marina development, the U.S. Post Office block redevelopment, proposed housing in Southside Park, and an entertainment district in the Hermitage Road neighborhood.

One hopes that the new concepts reflect the reality of what Beaufort's residents envision for the long term and that they protect the very distinctive sense of place that exists here. One also hopes that the public's concepts are reflected in the proposed form-based zoning code as well, because it will be those ordinances that are the law.

While a city council-appointed group is diligently and intelligently analyzing the zoning codes that are to support this plan, the codes are still 12 months out from being completely written. The consultants say it's traditional to adopt a master plan before the zoning to support it but questions remain as to what should come first. Some still ask why we would adopt a plan that requires a zoning code that hasn't been vetted by City Council?

Whichever comes first, perhaps finally the visioning of our city's future and its ordinances will be more organic and community-led rather than prescripted by renderings that are so foreign to the Lowcountry as to be the stuff of nightmares.

Maxine Lutz is the executive director of Historic Beaufort Foundation.

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