As Beaufort considers rezoning two lots into a special district, Historic Beaufort Foundation members are urging the city not to do so at the expense of the historical integrity of downtown.
The two lots make up an entire block on the west side of Bladen Street, between North and King streets. City council voted preliminarily at its meeting Tuesday to rezone them into the Bladen Street Redevelopment District, a designation Mayor Billy Keyserling said provides stable guidelines a developer can use to build.
Development plans for the lots at 1604 King St. and 1601 North St. currently must go through the Historic Design Review Committee to ensure they are appropriate for the Downtown Historic District. The King Street lot is vacant. The North Street lot is the home of the former Koth's grocery.
"I don't know if any developer is going to sit there and spend the money and go through that type of process on a guess that might work out," councilman Mike Sutton said.
Foundation member Conway Ivy wants future structures to fit in aesthetically with their surroundings. Council members frequently referred to "vertical building," and the Bladen Street district would allow structures up to 55-feet tall.
"Look at this iconic view that we have on Bay Street," Ivy said, referring to the marsh-side road that runs near the North Street property. "...There is the potential for disruption of that whole patina on that side."
Keyserling said the original intent was to include the lots in the Bladen Street district, but the owners were not interested at the time.
"These are intricate partnerships that didn't go through at the time ... but that's not the reality here," he said. "What the reality is, we have two owners who want to come into the (Bladen Street) district now."
The rezoning and potential development would "breathe some life" into what are essentially abandoned lots, he said.
The Bladen Street district includes 13 lots, most of which were added in January 2011, according city officials. The most recent one was added in June. Most are on or close to Bladen Street, but two are a block over, off Adventure Street.
"The other thing that makes us nervous is how do we know that this is going to be confined to this eight-block area?" Historic Beaufort Foundation Executive Director Julie Good said.
Keyserling said the foundation should work with the city on those concerns.
Foundation members also said Tuesday they believe the city can have the development envisioned in the area without changing the zoning.
Council voted four to one, with councilman George O'Kelley opposed, to approve the change. A second and final vote has not been scheduled. Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufort.