Beaufort News

Beaufort man's dock request will go to public hearing

A Beaufort resident, Scott Sonoc, seeks to build two docks that stretch out to the Beaufort River at The Point, photographed here Oct. 9, 2015. But neighbors are worried the docks will obstruct the view of the water and make it more difficult to navigate the creek closer to land.
A Beaufort resident, Scott Sonoc, seeks to build two docks that stretch out to the Beaufort River at The Point, photographed here Oct. 9, 2015. But neighbors are worried the docks will obstruct the view of the water and make it more difficult to navigate the creek closer to land. dearley@islandpacket.com
The public will have a chance to weigh in on a Beaufort man's request to build a second dock into the Beaufort River from The Point neighborhood.

Opponents argue the dock will detract from the views of the water and historic homes and impede the small creek.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control's Ocean and Coastal Resource Management Division has granted a public hearing for a permit application from Scott Sonoc, who is asking to build a 300-foot dock to replace a shorter dock at 400 Port Republic St.

Sonoc also owns the property next door, where he won the right in administrative court this summer to build an identical dock after DHEC denied his permit request.

The location, date and time for the hearing on the second dock will be decided within the next week and posted on DHEC's website, agency spokeswoman Cassie Harris said.

City planner Lauren Kelly said Wednesday the hearing had been tentatively scheduled for Nov. 9 and that there had been a request it be held at City Hall.

Sonoc's requests have been opposed by neighborhood residents and the Historic Beaufort Foundation.

Sonoc contends the creek will remain usable for kayaks but is dangerous for larger boats, and that the docks are a natural fit for a city tied to the water. He said he has contributed to the historic district by renovating two homes and another building downtown and developing a public garden.

"It's America, people are entitled to what their opinion is on how things look," said Sonoc, an architect from Chicago who said he and his wife will make Beaufort their home.

As part of the consent order allowing the first dock, the judge said pilings across the creek had to be built 20 feet apart and that their height be 4 feet above average high water to allow kayaks and other craft underneath.

The city issued a permit for the first dock after the court order, with the condition it not include lights or a requested boat lift. The restriction was put in place by the city's Historic District Review Board when it reviewed Sonoc's initial permit request for a shorter dock in 2009.

On Wednesday, the review board discussed its authority over docks in the historic district. The board has say over the look of the dock but not its length, placement or in granting permission to build.

Residents at Wednesday's meeting asked the board what standards might exist so that future docks built to the river maintain the same look. Board member Quinn Peitz suggested they talk to city staff and City Council about including uniform standards for docks in the ordinance detailing the Historic District Review Board's role.

In the end, the review board has little sway in opposing the docks, board chairman Joel Newman said. He said once the docks receive state approval, the only defense is social pressure and the cost of building the longer dock, which Newman estimated could be $100,000.

He called the planned docks inappropriate and "completely ridiculous."

"It's characteristic that there are no docks there, because the people who lived there in the past were natives, and they understood that it's fairly impractical to have a 300-foot-long dock and have a boat sitting out on the end of it that you use very occasionally," Newman said.

Follow reporter Stephen Fastenau at twitter.com/IPBG_Stephen.

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