A new regional planning commission met for the first time Monday, taking what officials say is another step toward more inclusive decision-making and seamless growth among three northern Beaufort County's three governments.
The city of Beaufort, the town of Port Royal and Beaufort County each appointed two members to the advisory board.
"This is a poignant moment to have this kind of dialogue going on," Beaufort City Councilman Mike Sutton said. "I'm really encouraged."
The group acts in an advisory capacity only and makes recommendations on proposals relating to planning, zoning and annexation. Final decisions are made by elected officials of the appropriate council.
The board elected as chairman Joe DeVito, a Port Royal appointee, and as vice chairman Alan Dechovitz, a Beaufort city appointee.
Staff from each jurisdictionwere directed to iron out some procedural rules, including what constitutes a quorum and what happens in the event of a tie vote.
The new commission stems from the Northern Beaufort County Regional Plan, which mapped where growth is anticipated and encouraged and areas that should remain rural.
Jim Hicks, chairman of the county's planning commission and a member of the Northern Regional Plan Implementation Committee and the new commission, said the town, city and county in the past planned growth independently, without a comprehensive vision.
The Metropolitan Planning Commission allows jurisdictions to see how decisions made in one area affect growth throughout the region, Hicks said.
"We're talking about three different comprehensive plans, three different governments, three different planning staffs and one board all trying to find common ground for northern Beaufort County," Hicks said after the meeting.
The new group replaces the decade-old Beaufort-Port Royal Joint Municipal Planning Commission, which advised only the city of Beaufort and Port Royal.
For the county, the new commission would function as one of the county Planning Commission's various subcommittees, Hicks has said.
For instance, if a project is within the growth boundaries on Lady's Island, the Metropolitan Planning Commission would review the proposal instead of the county creating a Lady's Island subcommittee, as it did in the past, Hicks said.
The new commission's recommendations go to the county's Planning Commission and then to County Council.
Beginning in January the group will meet the third Monday of each month.