The city of Beaufort is considering a zoning request that could expand the core commercial district in downtown.
The core commercial district is both an area and a zoning designation in Beaufort. The property is bounded by Craven, Carteret and Charles streets and the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park. The zone allows most office and commercial uses, excluding drive-through businesses, and residences in existing homes. New residences cannot be built.
Realtor Richard Tritschler applied for a building at 308 Charles St. to be added to the zone, on behalf of the Paul H. Keyserling Revocable Trust and Beaufort Works LLC, which own the 0.17 acre property and two-story historic building on the lot.
Mayor Billy Keyserling, who owns Beaufort Works, recused himself from the public hearing as rezoning was discussed. Councilmen George O'Kelley Jr. and Mike Sutton said that was proper protocol but invited him to stay in the room, which he did.
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After the meeting, Keyserling said the intent of the zoning change is to make it possible for a retail business to operate in the building. The current office commercial zone does not allow that use, and a few months ago a potential tenant wanted to open a store to sell art and furniture.
Keyserling said there are two empty spaces in the building and the rest is occupied office space.
The Metropolitan Planning Commission discussed the zoning change during a meeting last week and, on a 4 to 2 vote, recommended neighborhood commercial instead of core, city planner Libby Anderson said. The main distinction between neighborhood commercial zoning and core commercial is that construction of new residential buildings is allowed. The committee felt that was more appropriate considering the surroundings and would still allow retail, Anderson said.
Erica and John Dickerson, who are renovating 314 Charles St. into a short-term rental, said they support neighborhood commercial zoning because "activity in the area is decidedly moving toward residential," John Dickerson said. He pointed to three buildings within a one-block area that are being or have recently been renovated back to residences, including the Scheper house at 915 Port Republic St.
Keyserling said during the meeting he does not oppose the committee's recommendation.
Anderson used examples from several city plans and future land use maps to show the city's intentions to expand mixed-use zoning that encourage businesses and retail that complement residences.
City Council will need to vote twice on the zoning change. If approved, the change would go into effect at that time.