Beaufort City Council squashes marina parking lot development plan

emoody@beaufortgazette.comMay 6, 2014 

  • In other business, council:

    • met in closed-door session to receive legal advice related to the Beaufort Downtown Marina parking lot development agreement and to discuss contractual issues related to leasing part of the police department building to the federal probation program.

      City Council considered taking the first of two votes on the lease agreement Tuesday, but elected not to after audience members and Councilman George O'Kelley Jr. questioned the legality of such a vote, since only discussion and no vote was advertised in the meeting agenda.

With a unanimous, almost in unison "aye" Tuesday, Beaufort City Council slammed the door shut on plans to develop the Beaufort Downtown Marina parking lot.

The decision, made during a special public meeting that followed a 35-minute closed door session, ends months of working with Historic Marina Partners LLC on a plan for the 4.2-acre property.

"They're not asking for attorney fees; they're not asking for any money," city attorney Bill Harvey said of the partners. "We're just laying it down and walking away."

The agreement was approved in November and involved city council, the city's Redevelopment Commission, and The Furman Co., on behalf of Historic Marina Partners developers Jim Chaffin and Steve Navarro. Navarro is president of The Furman Co., in Greenville.

According to the resolution approved Tuesday, city representatives and developers agreed to "mutually terminate" the agreement and "end the rights and obligations thereunder, without prejudice to any party."

Navarro said he and Chaffin agree with City Council's decision.

"That's our job. Developers take a lot of risk," he said.

The two do not intend to attempt to recoup their investment, which included a "a considerable amount of time and resources," he said.

Navarro said he will check on whether any legal or official action needs to be taken by the developers to terminate their end of the agreement. He also said the partners must conclude agreements they entered into with professionals for services.

City manager Scott Dadson said the Redevelopment Commission will take official action on the agreement, if needed, at its next meeting. Chairman Jon Verity said he supported City Council's decision Tuesday, but said something is needed to spur economic growth in Beaufort, which the commission felt the project would do.

"What we really need in Beaufort is sustainable prosperity, and we have not had that," he said.

The decision Tuesday was expected -- and applauded -- by an audience of about 75 who gathered in Council Chambers.

Councilman George O'Kelley Jr. had opposed the idea from the beginning, and was joined by Councilman Mike Sutton several weeks ago.

Mayor Billy Keyserling tipped council's balance away from the project with a public announcement April 29 of his opposition.

Councilman Mike McFee and Donnie Beer said they felt the same later that day.

Residents who have vocally opposed the development -- supporting a park at the site instead -- considered Tuesday's decision a victory.

"You answered us, and that's a healthy and dynamic thing," former Mayor David Taub said.

Council members said they appreciated the community's involvement, and they want it to continue.

"I beg you to please stay engaged," Keyserling said. "I beg you to look at how we can grow the city in the right way so what we leave for the next generation will be better than what was left for us."

That engagement is needed as officials decide what to do with the portion of the Civic Master Plan that outlines projects for the marina parking lot, including a water sports building.

Keyserling said that section of the plan will not be replaced until a new vision is created with the cooperation of community members.

"The fact is that having the input is valuable and important for the future of the city and it will continue to be needed as we move forward to grow this city," Sutton said.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at

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