Spring Island developer, Greenville developer pair up for Beaufort Downtown Marina project

emoody@beaufortgazette.comNovember 12, 2013 

Developers Jim Chaffin of Beaufort and Steve Navarro of Greenville will work with the city of Beaufort to develop the Beaufort Downtown Marina.

City Council approved an agreement with the duo's firm -- Historic Marina Partners, LLC -- after a closed-door session Tuesday night.

Council voted 4-to-1, with Councilman George O'Kelley Jr. objecting. Kelley said he intends to vote against everything related to developing the marina parking lot.

"I simply don't think some things should be touched and I don't think that area should be developed," he said. "I don't think there should be a building there."

In his introduction of the agreement, Mayor Billy Keyserling said the Redevelopment Commission has recommended the city partner with Chaffin and Navarro.

Afterward, he and commission chairman Jon Verity clarified the commission has yet to take an official vote to recommend the agreement. Verity said that will occur at a special meeting of the commission at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at City Hall. Afterward, the public will have an opportunity to talk with the developers.

Main Street Beaufort, USA, has also arranged a meet-and-greet from 3 to 5 p.m. at Best Western Sea Island Inn in downtown.

THE DEVELOPERS

Navarro is president of The Furman Co., a 125-year-old firm.

Chaffin is one of the founding members of Chaffin/Light, and is best known locally for his role in developing Spring Island.

Navarro said he understands why residents would worry about plans to develop the marina since they haven't been told much. But he and Chaffin are looking forward to an open dialogue with residents about what they want.

When asked what the developers want to do with the property, Navarro said "Oh, we have a lot of thoughts." He added there is risk in this project because there is no actual plan in place.

"We will continue to see if what the public wants is something we can deliver, and if not, we're not forcing it," he said.

Chaffin talked about a need for mixed-use buildings, and for economic, community, historic and environmental balance, and the importance of creating a sense of place in the area.

"We really do understand the need for open discourse on how do we find this balance," Chaffin said. "... Getting a lot of opinions and coming to consensus is how places evolve."

THE BACKGROUND

In April, the commission solicited letters of interest from developers for the parking lot. Five responded, and commission representatives met with three.

Details of those proposals have not been made public, and the city has denied two requests for the plans made by The Beaufort Gazette under the S.C. Freedom of Information Act.

Verity said Tuesday he would provide the names of the other four developers on Wednesday.

Councilman Mike Sutton presented the press Tuesday with a copy of the "secret" plans the city has been working on with the developers.

It was a rolled up, blank sheet of paper.

Verity has repeatedly said a development plan will not be created until citizens have a chance to provide input.

The agreement approved Tuesday only outlines how the city, commission and developer will work with each other, he said.

A series of public meetings will be scheduled, he said.


In other business, council:

  • approved rules for sidewalk sandwich boards downtown
  • approved conveying land at 905 and 907 Prince St. to the Baptist Church of Beaufort as part of a land-swap redevelopment deal.
  • approved selling a used firetruck for $290,000, the highest of four offers.
  • approved an engineering agreement for the day dock project.
  • approved a maintenance agreement with the S.C. Department of Transportation.
  • reviewed conceptual designs for the new Mossy Oaks fire station. Council focused on whether to keep a small porch in the designs.
  • discussed the 2013 fiscal year annual report. No significant issues were found, according to an independent audit.
  • proclaimed November as Violence Against Women and Alzheimer's awareness month, and Nov. 30 as Small-Business Saturday.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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