Beaufort officials consider easing building requirements in Boundary Street Redevelopment District

Mayor Billy Keyserling speaks with Beaufort City Council during a work session Tuesday night.
Mayor Billy Keyserling speaks with Beaufort City Council during a work session Tuesday night. Staff photo

Beaufort city officials and staff are discovering it's one thing to designate and plan an area for redevelopment, and quite another to put that plan into action.

Concerns about restrictions in the Boundary Street Redevelopment Plan have arisen through the review of projects such as the proposed Starbucks on Boundary Street, according to discussion during Tuesday's City Council work session.

"I applaud you and Lauren for holding hands through this whole process," Councilman Mike Sutton said to city planner Libby Anderson, referencing project development planner Lauren Kelly. "I'm just saying your hands are tied because of the ordinance."

Neither Starbucks nor developer 303 Associates, which submitted plans for the coffee shop in the 1900 block of Boundary, were mentioned by name during the meeting. However, the project was clearly described, including city manager Scott Dadson's referencing of an article in Tuesday's edition of The Beaufort Gazette.

The redevelopment district outlines specific requirements for buildings there.

Officials intend the plan to create a predicable formula for developers and architects as well as complimentary buildings, Mayor Billy Keyserling said. Sticking to those rules, which were approved in 2007, preserves that intent.

"If we don't do that, we lose the predictability for the next developer and the next developer," he said.

However, Sutton, who said he was contacted by 303 Associates about roadblocks with the Starbucks project, sees a need for some flexibility.

Among those are the removal of trees and the depth of a colonnade on the Boundary Street-side of the proposed building. An 8-foot colonnade, which is required by code, has presented issues with the building's design and Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, he said.

"I think we need to be flexible," Sutton said. "... If you don't do it and you chase off the development that might happen, you might never get (it) back."

Sutton, a contractor, frequently works on buildings in the historic district and understands the need for rules to enforce a particular appearance, but said staff needs the ability to make proposed projects work. Staff also should tell council when problems with district rules arise, he said.

Sutton's concerns sparked questions from Historic Beaufort Foundation executive director Maxine Lutz about the long-term approach to city planning and zoning.

The city, Beaufort County and town of Port Royal have been working jointly on form-based codes, which dictate zoning based on a building's appearance than its use.

"I wonder if Mike isn't fighting against the restrictiveness of form-based code, and if this is going to come up with every project under form-based code," Lutz asked.

Dadson said planning staff needs direction from council on how flexible it can be when reviewing potential development, and how to most effectively and efficiently handle appeals to citizen advisory boards or council.

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