Developers readying preliminary Beaufort Downtown Marina parking lot plans

City preps to rezone properties

emoody@beaufortgazette.comJanuary 9, 2014 

This artist's rendering shows how the Beaufort Downtown Marina could look with a multi-use building that would offer rowboat rentals, the conversion of the day dock into a dock for rowing sports and dinghies and the addition of a high quality day dock near Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park.

CITY OF BEAUFORT — Submitted photo

  • In other business, the Redevelopment Commission:

    • Discussed progress of the Lafayette Street Project to build affordable housing. Permit issues have been temporarily resolved with the S.C. Department of Transportation and are in the process of being resolved with S.C. Ocean & Coastal Resource Management. Developers could apply for city permits within a week or two, commissioners said.
    • Discussed progress of the King Street Project that involves swapping property with The Baptist Church of Beaufort. The plan has been changed from rehabbing one home and building four to building three homes, which eliminates lot size problems.

While Beaufort Downtown Marina parking lot developers work on their plans -- preliminary versions of which could be ready in two weeks -- city officials are making efforts to create complimentary plans of their own.

The Redevelopment Commission heard an update Thursday from Jim Chaffin, half of the Historic Marina Partners LLC the city agreed to work with on the development.

Chaffin and partner Steve Navarro have meet with a number of community groups and private individuals to gather input, ideas and concerns about the parking lot. Chaffin said the next two weeks will be spent finalizing a written plan, which will then be brought back to all of those groups for additional input.

The city intends to move forward next week with a request to rezone 10 properties in or near the parking lot to core commercial, the zoning much of downtown already has. The parking lot currently has conservation preservation zoning, which allows very few uses.

The request goes before the Metropolitan Planning Commission on Monday, according to its agenda, and before City Council on Tuesday, Redevelopment Commission chairman Jon Verity said. He expects with two votes and a public hearing, it could take four weeks to finalize the zoning change.

Redevelopment Commission member Wendy Zara questioned the inclusion of Freedom Mall, at the front of the parking lot, in the rezoning request.

The mall was given to the city by the Beaufort County Land Trust on the condition that it remain open space, according to a previous letter from the land trust. City planner Libby Anderson said as long as the covenant restrictions remain in place, it does not matter what the mall's zoning is. Those restrictions trump any zoning, she said.

Chaffin said he and the land trust have discussed the possibility of changing the location of protected open land. The overall open land the developers are considering including is much larger than that space, and would be on multiple sides of the lot.

"It's a possibility and it's no more than that," Verity said. "Jim's group would have to do a pretty remarkable job to move it."

Zara also questioned the timing of the zoning change -- before a development plan is ready for consideration -- and whether it wouldn't be better to wait.

"We don't want to spend six months to a year creating a plan that can be turned down because it didn't fit the zoning," Chaffin said.

Verity said the agreement between the city and developers includes rezoning the property.

According to that agreement, the rezoning is included in the sentence which also has council transferring property ownership to the Redevelopment Commission, who would then transfer it to the developers.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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