City officials are looking for people in building-related fields to comb through 400-plus pages of a proposed form-based code, but not enough residents are involved, the groups say.
The city is creating a 12- to 14-member committee to review the proposal and tailor it to individual neighborhoods and properties. Form-based code emphasizes building appearance, unlike traditional zoning, which emphasizes how a building will be used.
The process is expected to include meetings twice a month for at least six months. The original plan was for a task force with as many as 10 members from city boards or commissions, two to four developers or builders, and two "community leaders."
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That's not enough, the groups say.
Downtown neighborhood associations and residents launched a campaign this week to get more input from residents, especially those living in the historic district. Volunteers presented a 208-signature petition to Beaufort City Council asking that a second committee review the code.
The historic district committee they propose would include four neighborhood representatives, one Historic Beaufort Foundation representative, one Historic Review Board representative and six members chosen by city officials.
"The advisory committee being formed absolutely requires active and full participation in order to ensure that residents understand and agree with the rules that will govern everything that can be built in the historic district," the petition says.
Mayor Billy Keyserling said he does not like "dividing the city" by creating two committees, but he was open to the idea. The city's Office of Civic Investment has been told to rethink the code-review plan, starting with improved public education. A fact sheet is being compiled, an education work session is being planned and the deadline to submit an application to be on a code review committee has been extended.
"Let's take a step back," Keyserling said. "There's way more misinformation going out through flutters of emails. ... I think we need to stop, get the facts out."
Downtown residents aren't the only ones who want more information about the city's long-range plans. Kathy Lindsay of the Hermitage Road Area Neighborhood Association said officials need to allow more public input and present the final plans to residents.
"Let's try to get more of us educated and on the same page," she told City Council on Wednesday.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufort.