Beaufort City Council took its first step Tuesday toward eliminating a cap on the number of fueling pumps allowed at gas stations after hearing from one business owner who thinks the change would give new stations a competitive edge over existing ones.
Council gave preliminary approval to new regulations that would allow developers to put in as many pumps as they want at stations in areas along Robert Smalls Parkway and Boundary Street west of Ribaut Road.
Gas stations within other general commercial districts are permitted by special exception, giving the city's Zoning Board of Appeals final say on how many pumps are allowed.
The changes also includes new design standards officials say will make the stations more attractive.
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Beaufort currently limits the number of individual fueling stations to eight -- four pumps that can each serve two vehicles at a time -- at all gas stations.
An applicant who wants more pumps must seek a variance from the city's Zoning Board of Appeals.
Steven Wimberley, owner of the Shell gas station at 1200 Ribaut Road, told council members when he sought a variance in 2007 to install two additional pumps and make other changes, the zoning board denied his request.
"My feeling is the town is handcuffing me," Wimberley said.
Beaufort began looking at the issue after attorney David Tedder told city council he has clients who want to build attractive stations with more than four pumps. Tedder applied to change the regulations and update design standards.
However, Wimberly argued that changing the rules at the request of a developer will ultimately put other business owners at a disadvantage.
The recommendation also proposes allowing only two gas stations at major intersections and one at minor intersections.
Beaufort Planning Director Libby Anderson said the town of Port Royal has reviewed the proposed changes with the city and is considering adopting them.
Council must hear a second reading before the changes could take effect.
Also on Tuesday:
The owners now have 30 days to make repairs or apply for a demolition permit, Mayor Billy Keyserling said after the meeting.
If the owners apply for a demolition permit, they then have 30 days to tear the structure down. If they fail to do so, Beaufort could then tear down the structure and put a lien on the property for the cost of the demolition.
Two people, including Historic Beaufort Foundation Executive Director Julie Good, spoke during the meeting asking that council put the demolition on hold while other alternatives are examined.
Maurice Ungaro, a Historic Beaufort Foundation Board of Trustees member, said he has spoken with a woman interested in purchasing the property and reviving the home.
Keyserling and the rest of council encouraged the foundation and Ungaro to work with that potential buyer and the homeowner to see if a deal could be reached in the next 60 days while the demolition by neglect process runs its course.
The Trust wants to put its resources to work to protect open space and land for all residents, Bluntzer said.