As the city of Beaufort prepares to buy the Beaufort Commerce Park, plans are under way to create a special zone that would streamline the development review process for future occupants of the industrial area, according to city officials.
The zone was recommended Monday by the Metropolitan Planning Commission, although some worried the special designation would be unfair to developers of other local properties.
"It just doesn't feel right to me that we go in and change the rules for one group and not the other groups," commission member Robert Semmler said.
The city of Beaufort is buying the 167-acre park for $1.85 million from S.C. Bank & Trust. The proposed industrial zoning, which faces a final vote by the Beaufort City Council, would lift requirements for landscaping, tree removal, parking limits and a traffic impact study. The zone would "streamline the development review process," city planner Libby Anderson said.
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Developer Merritt Patterson, who owns the 32-acre Beaufort Industrial Village, said the current zoning rules have made developing his park more difficult and expensive. He supports the city's commerce-park purchase, which is intended to create jobs, but doesn't believe the special zoning is fair.
"Why all of a sudden do you get to play by a different set of rules?" he asked.
Resident Jay Weidner was concerned about waiving restrictions on cutting trees.
"I don't want to go crazy on this -- I'm not suggesting we build an industrial park in a forest -- I'm just suggesting that each property has some requirement," he said.
Anderson conceded that part of the zone needs to be rethought, so large significant trees in buffer areas are preserved.
Commission member Alice Howard said the new zone appears to have been carefully planned by city staff to address businesses' needs without imposing heavy industry on residential areas.
After lengthy discussion, the commission, composed of city, Port Royal and Beaufort County representatives, voted to recommend the new zone. However, commission members want the existing light-industrial zone requirements reworked to give other developers a similar streamlined process.
The commission also voted to recommend the Beaufort City Council annex the commerce park.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufort.