Beaufort City Council seeks to implement master plan, but worries about community support

emoody@beaufortgazette.comMarch 26, 2014 

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

LAWRENCE GROUP

A quote was misattributed in an earlier version of this story. Councilman Mike McFee said it was tiring being “beaten up,” figuratively by disagreeing residents.

Now that the Beaufort Civic Master plan has been approved, City Council is focusing on how to implement it, including getting full support from city boards and residents.

"We've gone from a city that is stuck and doesn't get stuff done, to a city that's starting to get stuff done," Mayor Billy Keyserling said.

Council members discussed future projects and improvements mentioned in the master plan during their annual retreat Wednesday at the Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority in Okatie. They focused mainly on redevelopment projects for areas such as the Beaufort Downtown Marina and Bladen Street.

Council members generally agreed that residents have many misconceptions about the Civic Master Plan and what the city hopes to achieve with various projects, such as parking.

Councilwoman Donnie Beer said it's frustrating that residents do not attend meetings. Councilman Mike McFee said he's tired of getting "beaten up," figuratively, by disgruntled residents upset over issues ranging from the Downtown Marina parking lot development to the addition of concrete benches in Secession Park.

Some members said they were concerned that not all of the city Redevelopment Commission members were as focused on the plan as City Council is.

McFee, who also sits on the commission, said the commission has a "very strong combination of people" who are all motivated and committed to the master plan, but sometimes members get off track. He didn't go into specifics.

Council discussed a desire to see the commission focus on bringing in private sector opportunities for affordable housing to improve areas such as Bladen Street.

Council members also lamented the lack of support from Beaufort County Council this week for a local option sales tax to be put on the ballot for a fall referendum. County Council rejected the 1 percent sales tax proposal Monday.

If approved, 30 percent of the tax would have gone to the city's general fund to be used for operations and projects. The rest would have been for property-tax relief.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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