Beaufort News

Beaufort Revelopment Commission seeks tangible results in coming year

Beaufort's Redevelopment Commission used much of its two-day retreat setting deadlines for work it wants to start in the coming year and re-evaluating how it communicates with the public and media.

The retreat kicked off Thursday with commission members setting goals for the two-day session and coming year -- many saying they want at least one redevelopment project under way or complete by this time next year.

"We've got to get something on the ground and get going," commission member Ed Barnhart said Thursday.

On Friday, commission committees presented work plans with specific goals.

Martin Goodman, a member of the commission's commercial development committee, said that group plans to evaluate incentive programs available through the city and suggestpossible improvements by the end of March.

It will report back to the City Council and Beaufort's new Office of Civic Investment, led by consultants hired to apply the city's comprehensive plan and offer support to the commission.

The commercial development committee also plans to find state and regional redevelopment partners, host a joint meeting, work with the University of South Carolina Beaufort to anticipate its needs, and help find a buyer for Beaufort's former City Hall, among other things.

The committee will continue work on a proposed home-improvement pilot program that would use public and private money to help homeowners fix up dilapidated houses.

"Our No. 1 goal is by this time next year to have a project or at least a portion of a project completed," said committee member Michael McNally.

Among the finance committee's goals is finding the money the commission would need to start that project, member Wendy Zara said Friday.

Residential development committee members plan to meet again with the Lowcountry Housing Trust, a Charleston nonprofit organization that finances production and preservation of workforce and affordable housing. Trust representatives met with the full commission earlier this month to talk about a potential partnership with Beaufort.

The public relations and communication committee should launch a new, basic website with biographies of members, agendas and meeting minutes by Feb. 18.

The commission also plans to change its communications protocol to encourage all questions and inquiries about the commission and its projects to go through chairman Jon Verity.

"Anything we talk about that involves the commission would come through me," Verity said after the retreat. "I think it's very important for us to have a consistent message."