Zoning changes increase commercial opportunities for downtown Beaufort properties

emoody@beaufortgazette.comDecember 19, 2013 

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An owner's request to allow retail space in a home in the Bluff area of Beaufort has grown to encompass most of the block it sits on.

The structure at 1005 Craven St. was renovated last year, and owners Frank and Elizabeth Robinson's seek a change from office zoning to neighborhood commercial zoning. The change would allow more retail uses on the north side of the street, city planner Libby Anderson said.

It's part of a plan to rezone a number of properties in the area to allow broader commercial uses.

The Robinsons' request was brought to the Beaufort-Port Royal Metropolitan Planning Commission in November, and members were concerned the request constituted spot zoning.

This week, city staff asked the commission to rezone it and four surrounding properties, including Harvey & Battey law firm and parking lot, the Rhett House Inn and another single-family residence.

The changes are consistent with the Civic Master Plan and the Comprehensive Land Use Plan, and expanded potential uses make sense for the neighborhood, Anderson said.

"This is definitely a mixed-use neighborhood," she said.

The commission approved the rezoning, so as not to delay the Robinsons, but it would need two votes by City Council to take affect.

In January, the city staff intends to ask to rezone a number of properties on the south side of Craven Street -- to core commercial -- to allow even more types of businesses, Anderson said. That could include the Best Western Sea Island Inn, a short-term rental property and offices.

Commission member Robert Semmler said the mention of additional requests and changes caught his attention.

"It almost looks like we're doing this piecemeal," he said. "Someone comes in and says 'I want to put a store in here' and 'OK, we'll change it.' So much work has been done by you and everybody else to come up with a nice plan on how the city is going to grow and go forward, now we're going back and changing just a little bit, but just enough to change the personality of that particular neighborhood with this one zoning change."

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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