City Council delays vote on Beaufort Downtown Marina rezoning

emoody@beaufortgazette.comApril 15, 2014 

  • In other business, council:

  • Discussed changes to the form-based code citizen advisory committee, including changing meeting dates and decreasing its 20 members to a dozen.

  • Discussed membership of the Park and Tree Advisory Commission the city is recreating. Members will come from the existing South Side Park Committee and the Tree Board.

  • Discussed fees for tree removal, which would go into a reforestation fund to pay to plant news trees throughout the city.

  • Discussed a letter-to-the editor council members are sending to The Beaufort Gazette expressing disappointment Beaufort County Council is not adding a local-option sales tax to a referendum this fall.

  • Interviewed Barbara Laurie, Jeff Evans, Chuck Syme, John Simpson and H. Quinn Peitz Jr., for positions on the Historic District Review Board.

  • An initial vote by Beaufort City Council to rezone the Beaufort Downtown Marina parking lot is on hold.
  • Three of five council members discussed the rezoning process during a Tuesday, City Hall work session with more than three dozen residents in attendance. Mayor Billy Keyserling and Councilman Mike McFee were absent.

    The initial vote to rezone the property had been scheduled for April 22. Two votes are needed before the property can be rezoned.

    "We need a plan before we do any sort of zoning changes," Councilman Mike Sutton said.

    City officials have an agreement with developers Jim Chaffin and Steve Navarro,of Historic Marina Partners LLC. The company is devising a plan for the 4.2 acre, city-owned parking lot. Rezoning the land is part of the agreement.

    But the three council members who attended Tuesday's meeting said they weren't ready to take that initial step.

    Councilman George O'Kelley Jr. has opposed development on the lot in general and consistently voted against all topics related to building there. Holding off on the rezoning -- which he has said he will vote against -- is just fine, O'Kelley said.

    "That suits me, and I'd just as soon that it never came up for a vote," he said.

    Councilwoman Donnie Beer said the more she looks at the written plan Chaffin and Navarro presented March 26, the more inclined she is to wait for a plan with specifics and drawings.

    The developers presented a three-page plan for "River Place" that includes a boutique hotel, retail, restaurants and full-time and seasonal residences.

    "The more I look at the conceptual plan, the more I decided I couldn't really get my mind wrapped around the concept," Beer said.

    Council members said they are also taking into consideration feedback from dozens of residents who spoke at a public hearing April 8 -- most against rezoning -- and comments from an online petition to turn the land into a grassy park. As of Tuesday night, the petition had more than 1,000 signatures.

    Council members also said they want to reexamine the agreement they, the developers and the city's Redevelopment Commission signed.

    Resident Kathy Lindsey asked that any discussion and changes "be done in the public eye."

    City manager Scott Dadson said the discussion will be a public one.

    Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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