Beaufort council approves first reading of Civic Master Plan

emoody@beaufortgazette.comJanuary 14, 2014 

An image from the Oct. 18, 2013, draft of the Beaufort Civic Master Plan.

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  • In other business, council:

  • heard from Amberlee Pelkey, who has a boat moored in the Beaufort River where the city plans to create a mooring field. She has been notified of those plans and is upset her boat must be moved by Feb. 10. If she doesn't move it, she must pay fines of more than $1,000 a day.

  • agreed to a $264,000 software and maintenance contract with Spillman Technologies for police database programming that will match what the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office and Bluffton Police Department are converting to.

  • met in closed-door session to receive legal advice and discuss property acquisition. No additional specific information was provided.

  • heard about the Beaufort History Museum's move to The Arsenal, which the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce leases from the city.

  • discussed concerns about continuing funding for Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce's Military Enhancement Committee, and what the committee's goals are.

  • had a public hearing about rezoning three lots on Greenlawn Drive from suburban to Boundary Street Redevelopment District; changes to that district's height rules for floor-to-ceiling and first floor height; and rezoning 1001, 1005, and 1009 Craven St., 412 Charles St.; and 415 Newcastle St., from commercial to neighborhood commercial.

  • In the end, it came down to two pages in a 296-page document.
  • Beaufort City Council approved 4 to 1 the first of two votes on the Civic Master Plan, which would guide the next century of growth. Councilman George O'Kelley Jr. voted against it the plan.

    The plan outlines development of vacant and important properties; road and transportation changes; access to water; stormwater needs; parks; and areas targeted for economic development.

    But before Tuesday night's council meeting vote, the audience, staff and city officials spent about two hours discussing the plan, with much of that focused on including changes recommended by preservationists.

    Those changes, covered in two pages and referred to as the Seven Integrities for Historic Preservation, would be guidelines to help potential builders know if their projects fit in the historic district, said Maxine Lutz, executive director of the Historic Beaufort Foundation. Others supported the foundation's stance.

    "All it takes is two pages and a vote yes, and you've taken it off your plate and you've made all preservationists and all future builders happy," resident Beth Grace said.

    Not everyone agreed the integrities were necessary.

    Councilman Mike McFee said he felt they were good, but generally already covered in the overall document.

    Councilman Mike Sutton, a local contractor who does restoration work, said as long as current rules and procedures for building in the historic district remain in place, the integrities don't need to be included.

    "I think, if we're going to keep the current process, I don't think we need another layer to tell us how to do it," he said.

    Discussions also moved back and forth about the plan being conceptual versus regulatory.

    The plan shows what is possible in areas, but does not force anyone to build what is shown, said Jon Verity, chairman of the Redevelopment Commission, which has recommended the plan's adoption.

    "I've been listening to this for an hour, and, you know, none of this really matters," he said, adding that developers will build the projects they want.

    But Historic Beaufort Foundation president Conway Ivy and O'Kelley were less convinced, and said that once a plan is on paper and has gone through the approval process, it could be pushed through.

    "Whether it has a legal basis or not, it becomes part of the argument," Ivy said.

    The plan is expected to be voted on a second and final time Jan. 28.

    Mayor Billy Keyserling said he wants to try to find a compromise that could add some of the language preservationists want.

    Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

    Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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