Marina parking lot development plan draws fire at public hearing

emoody@beaufortgazette.comApril 8, 2014 

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  • In other business, council:

  • Met in closed-door session for a legal briefing related to pending litigation.

  • Discussed stricter rules and increased fees for temporary parking space rental rates.

  • Proclaimed April as Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month and as Fair Housing Month.

  • Reappointed Andy Kinghorn as the city's representative to the Stormwater Utility Board.

  • Approved rezoning of 1011 and 1015 Bay St., and 310 and 314 Charles St.

  • Approved a noise ordinance waiver for a May 16 event at The Arsenal.

  • Approved a street closure for the Tabernacle Baptist Church's Annual Run/Walk for Christ on May 24.

  • Approved use of the marina ramp and parking fee waiver for the annual Beaufort Swim on May 31.

  • Former Mayor David Taub reached into the pages of the Bible for a comparison Tuesday night, suggesting Beaufort Town Council not give what is sacred to dogs or throw pearls before swine.
  • Not that he's calling anyone a dog or swine, he said, but the waterfront property that makes up the Beaufort Downtown Marina parking lot is certainly a pearl.

    And that pearl should be handled delicately, he said.

    "What you should do is fit the zoning to the purpose you adopt," Taub said of plans to build on the parking lot. "And that's at the end (of the process), not at the beginning.

    Taub was one of about two dozen residents, businesses owners and others who spoke at a Tuesday public hearing against rezoning -- or at least favored waiting to rezone -- the parking lot.

    The question of rezoning was first raised in a passionate public discussion with the Beaufort/Port Royal Metropolitan Planning Commission in January. The commission voted against granting approval until after a redevelopment plan is ready.

    City Council decided to hold off on a public hearing and votes until developers Historic Marina Partners LLC provided a preliminary plan. Developers Jim Chaffin and Steve Navarro presented a written narrative two weeks ago.

    The executive directors of Main Street Beaufort, USA, and the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce said their organizations support the rezoning because it is included in the recently approved Civic Master Plan. Both organizations backed that plan.

    "We believe the plan will continue to preserve Beaufort's historical legacy without compromising opportunities for new development," chamber executive director Blakely Williams said.

    Main Street executive director LaNelle Fabian said her organization supported rezoning but wants to see a plan before supporting development.

    A group of residents are banding together in a grassroots campaign to stop any development on the lot, and instead turn it into a park. With buttons and flyers at hand, they promoted a "Grand New Vision -- a Civic Green."

    "Just go ahead and make this simple," campaign member John Trask said. "This should be committed to permanent open space. I ask you to listen to the will of the people ... . Spare us the agony of a fight you are going to lose, because in the end, the public is going to win."

    Historic Beaufort Foundation and the Beaufort County Open Land Trust were among the organizations against rezoning.

    "The Beaufort County Open Land Trust has considered this matter carefully, has conferred with its membership and has determined that it has no option, based on its mission and its historic legacy, but to oppose this rezoning and development of this property," according to a resolution approved by the board Monday night.

    Resident Bill Nettles said city officials should let residents vote on the issue at a referendum in the fall.

    "However, you know full well you don't have the support of the community to pass that," he said.

    City Council will not vote on the rezoning for at least two weeks.

    Two votes will be needed before the zoning can be approved.

    Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

    Related content:

    • Public hearing, vote planned for Beaufort Downtown Marina parking lot, March 18, 2014: http://bit.ly/1g2KI6p
    • Planning commission tables Beaufort Downtown Marina parking lot zoning changes, Jan. 13, 2014: http://bit.ly/L312Zk

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