Questions persist on Beaufort's Civic Master Plan

emoody@beaufortgazette.comAugust 22, 2013 

CITY OF BEAUFORT

Despite a series of public meetings this spring and changes made over the three months that followed, Beaufort residents still had questions and concerns Thursday night about a Civic Master Plan designed to direct city growth during the next century.

City officials presented the updated draft at a meeting at City Hall, and while feedback from about 70 attendees was decidedly less vehement than during the spring, residents said there are still things that can be improved.

Dr. Charles Kresch was among them and objected to plans to move his Beaufort Periodontics & Dental Implant Center building to make way for development of the Beaufort Downtown Marina parking lot. His building is in that parking lot, at the corner of Charles and Bay streets.

While he acknowledged the plan is a conceptual one, he still worried about its effect.

"What happens is, 10 years from now, someone looks at this plan ... and says, 'OK, this is what was decided,'" he said. "... We need to know there is a clear demarcation, not only for my property, but other people's properties."

The plan covers topics ranging from development of vacant and key properties, road and transportation changes, access to water, stormwater needs, parks and areas where economic development should be focused on.

The Thursday presentation was the start of a final series of public meetings and reviews of the document before City Council votes on it.

'A LIVING DOCUMENT'

Redevelopment Commission chairman Jon Verity said public input will continue to be incorporated in the plan until that vote.

He also said changes could be made after it is OK'd by council.

"This is always going to be a living document," Verity said. "There's no reason to think this is fixed in stone, even when it's approved."

Many of the changes since the spring involved "scrubbing out" illustrations or details that were confusing or premature, such as development of the Beaufort Depot, said Craig Lewis of The Lawrence Group, an architecture and engineering firm working with the city to create the plan.

"We lightened it up so it was more of what people thought was in keeping with the character of Beaufort," he said.

Attorney David Tedder suggested additional "scrubbing" might be needed, including in the marina section where some illustrations and plans continue to confuse some residents.

Those confusing elements, he said, are distractions from what could be a good plan.

Some residents, however, want things added.

Cynthia Jenkins of the Historic Beaufort Foundation questioned why the downtown's status as a recognized historic district is not mentioned in the document.

The Redevelopment Commission is expected to vote on the plan at a 5 p.m. meeting on Sept. 5.

The Metropolitan Planning Commission will have its review and vote at a 5:30 p.m. meeting Sept. 16.

City Council will then consider the recommendations of both boards. Extra time has been scheduled before the Oct. 8 public hearing in case more changes or discussions are needed.

The plan could come up for a first council vote as early as Oct. 24. Two votes are needed for adoption.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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