City of Beaufort resumes work on form-based code

emoody@beaufortgazette.comApril 28, 2014 

On hiatus since last summer, the citizens advisory committee formed to comb through new city of Beaufort zoning codes is regrouping.

The form-based code review was put on hold by city officials while City Council, staff and residents discussed the Civic Master Plan. That plan was approved by City Council in February.

Now that it's ready to resume its work, changes are in store for the volunteer review committee, which will be pared from 20 people to 12 or 15, according to committee co-chairwoman Terry Hussey.

City planner Libby Anderson told council earlier in April that the original group was too large. The smaller group will make it easier for everyone to work together, let alone "sit the group around the table comfortably and professionally."

Though form-based code already is applied in small areas of the city -- as well as parts of the town of Port Royal and unincorporated Beaufort County -- the new proposal would make its use much more widespread. Form-based code, unlike traditional zoning, bases its rules more on a building's appearance than its use.

It remains to be determined which members of the review board will remain, but city manager Scott Dadson said in an email Monday that the reduced advisory committee will include "a mix of residents, board members and design professionals."

But before that group returns to the table, Anderson and city project development planner Lauren Kelly are reviewing a draft by The Lawrence Group, which is based on an earlier version created by Beaufort County consultant Opticos.

The city has paid the Lawrence Group nearly $2 million for its work on the Civic Master Plan and other tasks, according to Dadson's email. About $158,000 of that amount was for the form-based code.

The Lawrence Group will review the draft and an accompanying map again, after staff has completed its examination, then send the documents to the citizens committee, Dadson said.

"Given other competing demands on staff's time, this could take six weeks to two months," he said.

Meetings, which are open to the public, and a schedule will be announced.

Hussey is optimistic the committee will be able to move expeditiously by focusing on what specifically would change with the new zoning.

"I personally think that by the time we went on hiatus, we were making progress," Hussey said, adding that it was a shame the committee had to stop. "It was slow, but there was progress."

City Council would need to approve the code with two votes for it to go into effect.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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