City's long-term plan shouldn't get short shrift

info@islandpacket.comOctober 15, 2013 

Kudos to two members of the Beaufort Redevelopment Commission who said it was wrong to approve the city's proposed Civic Master Plan before everyone on the panel knew what exactly was in it.

Unfortunately, Henrietta Goode and Wendy Zara were unable to persuade other members. The commission approved the draft plan Oct. 3 on a 5-2 vote, just hours after receiving an updated copy of the plan.

"We're not the approval body," commission chairman Jon Verity said. "We're the moving-it-on body. ... This doesn't end public input; this just moves things to the next stage."

Given the commission's insistence that the public be shut out as it collects ideas for the redevelopment of the Beaufort Downtown Marina, its majority vote seems more motivated by a desire for a speedy conclusion than to hear what the public thinks about the Civic Master Plan.

But there's a more fundamental flaw in Verity's reasoning: The Redevelopment Commission most certainly is an "approval body," even if it is not the ultimate one.

Four years ago, City Council members removed themselves from the commission and added new appointees who had the expertise and time to tend to details of redevelopment. Goode and Zara sought to do their duty and were rebuffed.

"My thing is, when we pass it on, let's make sure it's what we want to pass on," Goode said before getting voted down.

Similarly, Zara objected to the vote because the most recent draft hit her email inbox only about five hours before the meeting.

"Did you read the changes between noon and the meeting today," she asked fellow commissioners. "I didn't. I didn't have time to."

This not the time to give a plan short shrift.

The Civic Master Plan outlines developing vacant and important properties, road and transportation improvements, access to water and other aspects of economic development.

If ever there were a plan to which the commission's time and expertise should be devoted, this is it. The content is the commission's bailiwick, the document is touted as a guide for the next century of Beaufort growth and the only deadline the city faces in approving it is self-imposed.

The commission should have adopted the deliberative habits of Goode and Zara, rather than a document it had not fully vetted.

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