No good reason not to add set of principles

Beaufort's Civic Master Plan would be improved by clear statements on what it takes to maintain historic integrity.

info@islandpacket.comFebruary 11, 2014 

Beaufort's Civic Master Plan should include nationally accepted principles for preserving the integrity of National Historic Landmark Districts.

The "Seven Integrities for Historic Preservation" and "In-fill Design Principles" -- suggested by the nonprofit Historic Beaufort Foundation -- should be a given for any long-range guide in a city dominated by a 304-acre, federally designated, historic district.

But City Council balked at adding the two-page list of principles last month when it approved the master plan on the first of two votes. The second and final vote is scheduled for today.

Council member Mike Sutton said that as long as current rules and procedures for building in the historic district remain in place, the integrities don't need to be included.

However, as soon as the Civic Master Plan is approved, the city will tackle more specific regulations. It is to then take up the "form based code," a proposed major shift in zoning philosophy. By including overarching principles needed to maintain the integrity of the historic district, the Civic Master Plan would inform that coming discussion about rules and procedures. Nothing could be more natural for Beaufort -- or needed.

The Historic Beaufort Foundation maintains that including the integrities could help property owners, architects and builders to know up front the special construction and design demands within the historic district.

"Since all construction within the (historic) district must be approved by the (city) Historic Review Board, following these principles and the other elements contained in the Beaufort Preservation Manual, the Historic Preservation Plan and the Northwest Quadrant Design Principles, which are by reference incorporated in this Civic Master Plan, will greatly facilitate the speed of the design-approval process and the development of the zoning process," says a note from the foundation to the City Council.

What could possibly be wrong with that?

The suggested addition includes basic statements on the topics of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling and association. The "in-fill design principles" are more specific in outlining what it takes to maintain the integrity of the historic district.

Yes, these principles must be upheld through zoning and other regulatory ordinances. But in a city that depends so heavily on historic integrity both economically and culturally, these basic principles should be stated in a plan that is supposed to inform the next century of city life.

They are an example of what the plan is said to be: a statement of the people. It is said to be something that has bubbled up from the public through numerous meetings, rather than something that is dictated from City Hall. If that is so, the city would be hard-pressed to find a more representative group of the people and mores of Beaufort than the 1,000-member Historic Beaufort Foundation.

City Council did not say it wants to veer away from these principles, but it apparently finds them redundant. We disagree. Including these straightforward guidelines would be fair and helpful to Beaufort residents of today and tomorrow.

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