Letter to potential developers for Beaufort Downtown Marina raises red flags

A draft of a letter designed to attract developers for the Beaufort Downtown Marina parking lot raised red flags during Thursday's Redevelopment Commission meeting.

The letter solicits input from potential developers, who are asked to submit examples of their work as a way of brainstorming ideas for the parking lot.

City Council approved plans in the fall for a water sports center there, adding it to the Civic Master Plan after much discussion and public input. But the letter asks for ideas about a whole lot more.

"Recommended uses for the site include retail, residential, and hospitality, as well as recreational and tourism related activities such as a paddle sports/rowing craft storage and rental and operational functions of the marina," it reads.

The front cover of the draft included renderings from the Civic Master Plan, which had been criticized as inconsistent with Beaufort's existing architecture and showing more development than might be called for.

Mayor Billy Keyserling and others observing Thursday's meeting protested those inclusions in the solicitation, and the commission decided to remove the renderings from the letter and a related web page before they are sent out.

The conceptual plan calls for a privately-built center of between 3,000 and 7,000 square feet with space to store paddle boats. Retail space and demolition of the existing marina buildings have also been discussed. Those functions would then be included in the new building.

When council approved the plan in October, Councilman George O'Kelley Jr. was the sole vote against it.

"We voted for a concept, and now this concept is growing wings and feet and a tail and everything," he said at the time.

Commissioner Wendy Zara also fought to remove a parcel known as the Freedom Mall from the land under consideration for redevelopment.

"I don't think this is our piece of property to bargain with," Zara said.

Dean Moss, chairman of the board of the Beaufort County Land Trust, provided a memorandum of understanding between the city and the organization showing the land was given to the city on the condition it remain open space.

Commissioner Alan Dechovitz said he felt the plot should be explained in the letter and could possibly be used as green space if needed by developers.

Historic Beaufort Foundation executive director Maxine Lutz also questioned part of the letter that suggested the city might sell the land. Commission chairman Jon Verity said although that is a possibility, he doesn't think the city would easily part with the property.

The letters will be sent out after revisions, and developers given about six weeks to respond. The commission will vet the responses and decide which developers to invite to Beaufort for continued discussions.

Related content

  1. Beaufort Council approves day dock, water sports building proposal, Oct. 23, 2012
  2. Beaufort seeks ideas to develop downtown marina, Jan. 15, 2013
  3. Beaufort City Council considers capital projects for fiscal year 2014, March 26, 2013