An expanded day dock and boating center in downtown Beaufort caught a tailwind of support Monday when a local commission recommended the plan's approval.
After hearing from about a dozen people, most of whom supported the plan, the Metropolitan Planning Commission agreed to send the proposal to the Beaufort City Council for final consideration.
The proposal has three main components: a 250-foot day dock along the west end of the seawall in Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park, a water sports and recreation center of 3,000 to 7,000 square feet with space to store paddleboats, and a marketing plan.
City Redevelopment Commission member Alan Dechovitz, who has worked on the plan for months, mentioned the controversy that surrounded the original construction of Waterfront Park, but noted that now most people would agree it has benefited the community.
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Supporters included Roy Stevens, president of the Beaufort Sail & Power Squadron, who said the proposed facilities would draw in fellow boaters, who would in turn spend money downtown.
"I believe beautiful Beaufort on the bay is a waterfront community, and we're not totally utilizing the waterfront," he said. "Most cities would kill to have a resource like we have to attract visitors to their businesses and restaurants."
John Dickerson, representing DragonBoat Beaufort, a rowing organization that helps cancer survivors, said the proposed low-floating dock would enable the organization to host events like the dragon-boat festival and race planned for Oct. 26, 2013, which could bring in thousands of visitors.
Conway Ivy asked that further research be done on the cost and financial impact of the proposed facilities.
"In my opinion, we need to change part of the culture of Beaufort, to ask for a tight financial analysis whenever we spend money," he said.
Edie Rogers, who has opposed the construction of a day dock along the seawall in the past, said alternative sites and plans need to be considered.
"It is the park people come to enjoy, and I can't imagine sitting on those swings licking my ice cream cone and having to look at boats right in front of me," she said.
While recognizing some residents' preference for a pristine, natural waterfront view, David Cargile of Cargile Consulting Inc. said, "What they're failing to recognize, is they can love something to death."
An influx of visitors and their money can help businesses, he said, and this is a way for Beaufort to manage inevitable changes needed to bring people in.
The commission's vote was unanimous, with member Jim Crower absent. City Council is scheduled to take up the plans Sept. 25.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufort.