Beaufort News

Beaufort dock request to go before public hearing Monday

A Beaufort man's request to build a second dock from the Point neighborhood reaching the Beaufort River will be the subject of a public hearing at 6 p.m. Monday at City Hall.

Scott Sonoc owns adjacent homes on Port Republic Street. He received approval this summer to extend his dock at 500 Port Republic St. across what is known as Baxter Creek and into the Beaufort River, with certain conditions.

Now a request for an identical dock next door will go to a public hearing after the Department of Health and Environmental Control's Ocean and Coastal Resource Management Division received enough letters opposing the permit.

Opponents say the docks will restrict the use of the creek used by kayakers and other small craft and forever alter historic views. Sonoc contends docks are a natural part of Beaufort's landscape and that the smaller creek is not safe for larger boats.

DHEC denied Sonoc's permit to build the first dock because of its perceived impact on the smaller creek and because his property wasn't considered waterfront. Sonoc won the right to build by appealing DHEC's determination to an S.C. Adminsitrative Court judge -- boundary lines were reconfigured to make the property waterfront and Sonoc successfully argued the small creek wasn't navigable.

He contends, based on an engineering study he had conducted, that the creek's mouth is filling in and will soon no longer be usable.

"Even today, it is less navigable than it was last year," Sonoc said in October.

He employed the engineering firm to conduct a study that showed shoaling in the creek was restricting access and that its closure was imminent.

That firm, Applied Technology & Management, had previously found that the creek was becoming more shallow, narrow and difficult to navigate.

State law requires a dock extend to the first navigable creek, unless there is a much larger waterway nearby and if conditions restrict the use of the first creek.

Beaufort City Councilman Phil Cromer wrote DHEC to oppose the dock on behalf of himself and family who live in the Point. Baxter Creek is still usable and the extended dock will set a precedent that will "open the floodgates," Cromer wrote.

During Historic District Review Board discussion last month of its power to regulate docks, board chairman Joel Newman said the docks were impractical and questioned the effect on property value, but acknowledged there is nothing within the panel's power to deny the permit.

The board has say over what docks in the historic district look like -- Sonoc's first dock wasn't allowed lights or a boat lift, for example -- but can't control the length or grant permission to build.

Follow reporter Stephen Fastenau at twitter.com/IPBG_Stephen.

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