Speak up again on plan determining city's future

info@islandpacket.comAugust 9, 2013 

As the city of Beaufort's Civic Master Plan nears completion, this is no time for residents who will be affected by it to stop paying attention.

After three months of revisions, the most recent version of a plan that maps growth in the city of Beaufort is set for public inspection. Redevelopment Commission chairman Jon Verity said there were seven to eight pages of notes and changes -- from spelling corrections to rewriting the section about the Beaufort Depot -- that accompanies the most recent draft. The intent is to allow people to take note by directing their attention to the changes, many of which were prompted by earlier public input.

The commission would deserve praise for such responsiveness were it not simultaneously thwarting the public on another front that demonstrates the imperative of vigilance and outspokenness.

When City Council added a water sports center at the Beaufort Downtown Marina to the Civic Master Plan last fall, the public was reassured that the addition expressed possibilities, not decrees. After all, the document is merely a guide. It is not binding and it is not law.

Yet within months, the notion of a water sports center had morphed into a contest by the Redevelopment Commission to solicit ideas from potential developers. And a few months after that, the contest had morphed into "possible" contract negotiations, according to the commission, which used that as grounds to hide the submitted ideas from the public.

If the commission is indeed brokering a genuine deal right now, the speed with which marina redevelopment has gone from concept to concrete plan suggests this is no time to nap.

The master plan, which has been posted to the city's website, could be up for its first City Council approval as soon as Oct. 8.

Between now and then, the council plans a presentation and work session Aug. 22, tentatively set for 5 p.m. Then the Redevelopment Commission is to review and vote on the plan at 5 p.m. Sept. 5. Next, it's on to the Metropolitan Planning Commission, which is expected to review and vote on it at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 16.

City Council will then consider the recommendations of both boards. Extra time will be allotted at the start of the council's first public hearing to consider the plan Oct. 8.

Each step offers the public an opportunity to voice a concern or bend an official's ear.

For that matter, these are opportunities to advocate a recommendation contained in the document, which surely contains many fine suggestions and intriguing ideas contributed by the Redevelopment Commission and the city's Office of Civic Investment, which is shepherding this process.

We call for the public's diligence not because city officials have bad intentions. Rather, it's that these officials might well be off to the races with those intentions whether the public agrees with them or not.

After all, these plans are being made around your future, your money and your property. The process must involve your voice.

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