In an election year, Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling says the city must be prepared to work hard in the face of one of the busiest times in its history.
Declining quality of life in the Northwest Quadrant, annexation and development, and hot-button issues such as short-term rentals and noise rules are among those Keyserling laid out during the first day of Beaufort City Council’s annual retreat Wednesday.
Keyserling didn’t formally announce a campaign for a third term, though he did let slip he is “excited to run again,” citing unfinished business.
“I feel excited and compelled to see it to it’s end and not walk away from it,” Keyserling said.
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Here’s what else he said Wednesday:
▪ On the troubled Northwest Quadrant: “I really think it’s a risk for some more serious problems.”
Fewer activities available at Charles Lind Brown Activity Center, ongoing violent crime and the disappearance of the neighborhood grocery stores have compounded a need to engage and revitalize the area, he said.
▪ On short-term rentals: “The answer to that may very well be a citizens panel. Parking worked.”
Keyserling was referencing the parking task force that studied the issue in the city and has begun to institute perceived reforms. The ongoing debate over short-term rentals continued this week with more approved downtown.
▪ On annexation: “We haven’t really sat down and had a conversation about it. … Do we have a plan to capture the holes and make them fit in?”
Talk of bringing property into the city has been fueled in recent months by development on Lady’s Island. Polk Village, the neighborhood north of Boundary Street, could also become part of annexation talks moving forward.
On Wednesday, City Council also received an update on initiatives from last year’s budget talks meant to ease some of the belt-tightening moving forward.
For instance, the city plans to charge business license fees for arms of nonprofits competing with private businesses. Large entities like Beaufort Memorial Hospital and churches with rental properties and public daycare centers are in the crosshairs.
The new rule could go to a workshop in March, when the city hopes to talk to representatives of tax-exempt properties. The issue is one of fairness, they have said.
The city has a list of tax-exempt property but no way yet to accurately predict the possible revenue from a new fee.
“We will be able to do some very rough estimates,” said city manager Bill Prokop, who noted the fees wouldn’t go into effect until 2017. “I think we can be rough on every one but the hospital — that’s going to have the biggest impact.”
The plan was part of a seven-step initiative to head off future budget issues. The guidelines also included scrutinizing committees, creative use of accommodations tax money, regulatory processes and fees and asking the public to fund aesthetic projects like park benches and holiday decorations.
Beaufort City Council Retreat
What: Day 2 of annual city leaders planning session
Where: Board room 109B, Beaufort Jasper Water and Sewer Authority; 6 Snake Road, Okatie, SC 29909
When: Thursday, 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Agenda: Executive session, review fiscal year 2016 strategic plan, update fiscal year 2017 plan, joint discussion with council and Redevelopment Commission