Beaufort News

A divided Port Royal Council OKs money for form-based code study

A divided Port Royal Town Council narrowly approved participation in the second and third phases to create a northern Beaufort County form-based zoning code, which will cost the town $85,000.

In a 3-2 vote, council approved the expenditure on the condition it is spread over two fiscal years.

Council members Joe Lee and Beth Heyward, who both said they were concerned with the cost, voted against it.

Form-based code is a zoning approach that emphasizes how buildings, streets and overall communities are designed rather than how individual buildings and lots are used, officials have said.

Beaufort County, Port Royal and the city of Beaufort selected Opticos Design, Inc. based in Berkeley, Calif. to look at creating a uniform code spanning the three jurisdictions.

The county is paying 60 percent of the contract and the municipalities 20 percent each, Town Manager Van Willis said. Port Royal and Beaufort each paid $15,000 for the first information-gathering phase.

Much of the work being done will focus on the county's municipalities and areas where higher density and more development is expected, Willis said. It will focus less on the rural, unincorporated areas, he said.

Town officials don't expect much change in the regulations guiding development in Port Royal's historic downtown area, which already has a form-based code in place known as the traditional town overlay district.

Most of the change in Port Royal would occur in areas north of Ribaut Road in the Shell Point and Burton areas, planning administrator Linda Bridges said.

The code would also give Port Royal road and landscape standards, something the town lacks now, Willis said.

After voting against the plan, Lee said he is against spending so much on a plan that will likely primarily impact the Shell Point and Burton areas, adding that there must be a cheaper way to get new landscape and street design standards.

"Burton is not a priority in this town right now," Lee said. "Paris Avenue is a priority."

Lee said if the town used the money instead to develop a plan for revitalizing Paris Avenue -- the primary commercial street in Port Royal's historic downtown -- it would see a much faster return on its investment.

Also on Wednesday, Council:

  • Approved an approximately $11,230 contract with Cornerstone GIS to redesign the town's website, create an interactive map with about 150 points of interest and help with a branding campaign, among other things.
  • Reappointed Garner Jones to the Zoning Board of Adjustments and Appeals.
  • Passed a resolution agreeing to participate in a regional economic development plan with the Lowcountry Economic Alliance and other area governments.
  • Gave final approval to the update of the flood damage prevention chapter of its code of ordinances to comply with National Flood Insurance Program standards.
  • Gave preliminary approval to new design standards for gas stations outside of Port Royal's traditional town overlay district, including the Shell Point area and the Robert Smalls Parkway district.
  • Went into a closed session to discuss a potential property acquisition, details of which Willis said were "very, very preliminary." No action was taken.
  • Approved a resolution stating that council members do not condone illegal immigration in Beaufort County but support immigration into the country through legal means.
  • Beaufort County Board of Education chairman Fred Washington Jr., speaking on behalf of an ad hoc committee that included county and school district representatives, encouraged the vote and asked council members to participate in the 2010 Beaufort County Immigration Information Forum, which will provide facts regarding immigration.

    The city of Beaufort, Beaufort County and Bluffton have approved similar resolutions, Washington said.

    The forum is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday in the County Council Chambers, Washington said.