Beaufort City Council should listen when the Historic Beaufort Foundation speaks because without historic preservation, Beaufort loses its distinction.
That distinction reflects 300 years of history and forms the city's heart and soul. It also drives the real estate, tourism and downtown retail economy.
For more than 40 years, Beaufort has benefited from adhering to special standards and review that maintain the integrity and feel of its Historic District.
A rezoning request up for public hearing tonight has the foundation concerned. Historic Beaufort Foundation opposes the proposed rezoning of a city block near the Beaufort Federal Courthouse.
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In a letter urging members to attend the hearing at 7 p.m. today at City Hall, chairman Conway G. Ivy and executive director Julie Good say, "This sets the stage for infill structures that could compromise the architectural compatibility of Historic District neighborhoods and, indeed, the tenor of the Historic District as a whole."
They object to the requested change from neighborhood commercial zoning to the Bladen Street Redevelopment District because it would allow building heights up to 55 feet and require that a structure occupy a minimum of 60 percent of the parcel frontage.
The iconic view of Bay Street is in peril, they say.
Beyond that, the rezoning would remove building plans for the two parcels from oversight by the Historic District Review Board.
This level of review has served the city well.
The Historic Beaufort Foundation says the mantra that additional oversight makes development and redevelopment too difficult is false.
It argues that having different standards for different lots is unwise.
At the same time, the city needs empty lots to be filled, and dilapidated or vacant homes and businesses to be repaired or replaced.
But if it forsakes the standards and review that have made Beaufort what it is today, it does so at extreme risk to its economy and culture.