Never underestimate the power of a few people to effect change. By the City of Beaufort's count, 140 residents turned out last spring for presentations of the proposed civic master plan. If one assumes a third of those were repeat participants, then you could say fewer than 100 people sent consultants back to the drawing board to reflect resident input in a revised plan.
The revised plan was released last week and does reflect public input. That's a good thing. Part of being a good citizen is paying attention and participating in public discourse. Part of good government is listening to the good citizens who show up to participate. For a while during the public process, it appeared that the public comment was being disregarded and disrespected. One official was heard to comment that those who asked questions were "the same ones who opposed everything that comes down the river."
However, it is important to continue paying attention. Just because the consultants went back to the drawing board doesn't mean the new picture is the one residents want to see. Some of the original proposals that drew the most reaction were in the National Historic Landmark District where increased density and increased mass and scale of proposed structures clashed with the sense of place that many feel defines the district. Here's a taste:
The revised plan addresses issues that arose in all sectors: Hermitage Road, the Depot, USCB, Beaufort Memorial Hospital and the Technical College of the Lowcountry, Ribaut Road. It behooves those with concerns about their neighborhoods to read how the revisions or lack thereof affect them. Read the plan at www.cityofbeaufort.org or at City Hall; hear the first public presentation at City Hall at 5 p.m. Aug. 22. Be counted.
Maxine Lutz is the executive director of Historic Beaufort Foundation.