A proposal to expand the downtown Beaufort day dock and add a water sports center made waves Tuesday night at aBeaufort City Council meeting.
Residents were split on whether to preserve the waterfront as it is or to improve access to the water.
The plan has been kicked around by several committees made up of city officials and downtown merchants all summer and was the subject of a public hearing Tuesday night.
The proposal has three main components:
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Those components pair with a plan already under way to expand the mooring field at the downtown marina.
The intent is to bring in a more affluent mix of visitors and improve accessibility for visitors and locals alike, City Redevelopment Commission member Alan Dechovitz said.
"In order to support the downtown, grow the downtown and provide the city with the revenue it needs to maintain Beaufort in the way we'd like for it to be maintained, we need to increase the revenue coming in," he said.
Jim Kindwall, president of the Beaufort Sportsfishing and Diving Club, said the dock facilities are inadequate and almost unfriendly to the local boating community. He said it is not easy to stop downtown for a visit. He and his friends often go to Port Royal or Lady's Island because they are easier to access.
"We'd love if downtown Beaufort was more of a part of our lives," he said.
David Boone said he took injured veterans, in town for the Lt. Dan Weekend two weeks ago, on a boat tour. The existing day dock was extremely difficult for those in wheelchairs to use, he said.
"The idea of let's just walk a little further and use the existing day dock certainly doesn't work for these guys," he said.
Henry C. Chambers, former mayor and namesake of the waterfront park, said previous attempts to expand the dock were killed by City Council and this one should be as well, he said.
"It is a park to be utilized by all the citizens of Beaufort and not special interest groups," he said, "and it was not designed as an income generator, even though it is the reason downtown has revitalized."
Several residents said downtown parking, not an expanded dock, should be the focus of any new efforts.
Others said the facilities are a good idea, but should be moved to another area.
Bill Nettles, a Spanish Point resident who said he has grown up by the water, was one of them.
His concern was that rowing craft, power boats and sailboats will share a small area and present potential safety hazards.
"I think you're mixing too many things in one pot and that pot is going to boil over and you're going to have people start getting hurt," he said.
The first vote on the proposal by City Council could come next month. Two votes are needed before the plan is incorporated into the city's master plan.