Beaufort sales-tax wish list could include park, parking structure

emoody@beaufortgazette.comMay 12, 2014 

A $3.5 million Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park expansion and a $16 million downtown parking garage are among the projects the city of Beaufort might seek to fund with a 1 percent, countywide sales tax.

Those are among more than $30 million worth of street, park and other projects City Council is expected to discuss during a 5 p.m. work session Tuesday at City Hall.

"We've got 10, 12 items in there, and how are we going to rank them?" Mayor Billy Keyserling said. "I don't know that we will. I would be inclined to submit the entire list."

The county and its municipalities are creating lists to determine projects that might be paid for with revenue from a proposed 1 percent tax. However, before any project receives funding, it must earn the support of the Beaufort County Capital Project Sales Tax Commission. The commission's recommendations will then be passed to County Council, which will decide whether to submit the list and the tax for voter approval in a referendum, possibly in the November general election.

The city of Beaufort's list also might include a $2.2 million spec building for the Beaufort Commerce Park, which it purchased two years ago for $1.8 million. Keyserling said some of the businesses the city was courting might have moved to the park had there been a suitable building ready to go.

The list of capital projects could also include:

  • Beaufort Plaza new road network, $1.2 million.
  • Southside Park, $2.15 million.
  • Basil Green Park, $1.125 million.
  • Greene Street streetscape, $1.95 million.
  • Greenlawn Drive steetscape: $1.25 million.
  • Duke Street streetscape, $900,000.
The park expansion and the parking garage are intertwined, city officials say. City Council killed plans to develop the Beaufort Downtown Marina parking lot last week in the face of opposition from residents, many of whom instead supported the park expansion for the property. Keyserling has said alternative parking would be needed somewhere to replace lost parking spaces if the marina lot is redeveloped.

A loosely organized group of residents called Civic Green advocates a return to the Sasaki Plan, created by city consultants in 2002. Phase I entailed the park's renovation in 2006, but there wasn't enough money for the rest of the plan, which would expand it to the marina parking lot, Keyserling said.

Should the city ask that the park expansion be included in the sales-tax list, it would be based on the Sasaki Plan, which would replace parking with green space and replace the marina store and restrooms with a harbormaster's building.

Sasaki Associates, which drew the original master plan for Sea Pines on Hilton Head Island, was paid $178,000 for the Beaufort plan. Staff came up with the $3.5 million estimate for the park expansion based on the original estimate for the work, city manager Scott Dadson said.

Grants would cover only a fraction of the construction cost. Maintenance costs -- an estimated $60,000 a year -- could come from an endowment or other funding source that Civic Green members have suggested, Keyserling said.

"So, if Civic Green is saying they're going to raise money to maintain the park and there's the opportunity for a capital project sales tax, why not?" he said.

The parking garage project would include buying land, creating about 450 parking spaces and constructing buildings around the garage to help it blend in, according to the project list, city officials and Structured Parking Solutions.

Structured Parking has an option to buy part of the Port Republic Square property owned by the Beaufort Inn and has been working with city officials on plans.

Dadson said city officials intend to present the final list of recommendations during the county sales-tax commission's May 19 meeting.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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