Port Royal gives initial nod to proposed form-based code

emoody@beaufortgazette.comMarch 12, 2014 

Port Royal town planner Linda Bridges explains zoning maps for proposed form-based code at a March 12, 2014, meeting.

STAFF PHOTO

  • In other business, council:

    • Approved an ordinance regarding wrecker and towing services and fees within town limits. Police Chief Alan Beach said it has been revised after some tow truck operators raised concerns and is very similar to Beaufort County's policy.
    • Discussed the proposed local option sales tax, which the city of Beaufort and town of Bluffton passed resolutions in favor of Tuesday night. The town passed a resolution last year supporting the addition of LOST to a 2014 referendum. Council may vote to reaffirm that resolution at its annual retreat.
    • Discussed the annual retreat, which will be 8:30 a.m. Saturday at Town Hall, 700 Paris Ave.
    • Recommended attorney Scott Graber as the town's representative on the Beaufort County Capital Projects Committee.
    • Reappointed Ervena Faulkner to the Historic Preservation Commission and Al Legare to the Redevelopment Commission. An appointment to the Design Review Board was tabled.
    • Proclaimed March as Disabilities Awareness Month.

Rules could soon change regarding what can be built where in the town of Port Royal.

Town Council unanimously granted preliminary approval to proposed form-based code, associated maps and other changes at its meeting Wednesday night. The new rules could be approved in the coming months.

Draft documents for the code are available on the town's website, www.portroyal.org.

However, that doesn't mean the documents are ready for a final vote, council and staff members said.

"We want to make sure we get it right, or as close to right as we possibly can, and not have to come back to it later," Mayor Sam Murray said. A public hearing also will be needed.

While form-based code focuses more on a building's appearance than its intended use, as traditional zoning does, the code does include some restrictions on uses within zones.

That has raised questions in at least two areas of town where the zoning would be downgraded, or made more urban, and exclude gas stations and convenience stores, town planner Linda Bridges said.

One is near the intersection of Mossy Oaks and Ribaut roads, where an owner has expressed interest in redeveloping land, possibly to include a gas station, Bridges said.

The other is at the Millennium Development complex near Richmond Avenue and Ribaut Road. Dean Morrissey, managing director for corporate development for Millennium Development, said there is no plan to build a gas station or convenience store there, but the idea has been discussed in the past and he doesn't want to restrict the site's usage.

Council directed staff to have its form-based code advisory committee convene to discuss the questions. Bridges said possible solutions include editing the description of the affected zone, editing the zoning map, or doing nothing.

Existing properties would be grandfathered in, Bridges said, and there is a 30-day period after a business stops operating in which a new building could be opened under the grandfathered uses.

Form-based code has been in the works for more than three years. The county commissioned a draft code, which municipalities are tweaking to make specific to their needs and properties.

Port Royal's code advisory committee finished its review in the fall, and the joint Beaufort/Port Royal Metropolitan Planning Commission gave a favorable recommendation in December.

The Beaufort County code was discussed during a Monday work session with that commission and the Beaufort County Planning Commission.

The city of Beaufort's citizen review process is on indefinite hold, as officials decided to wait on the work until the city's Civic Master Plan passed City Council. It passed in February.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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