Lady’s Island needs to show up.
Back in February 2017, the Sea Island Corridor Coalition and Coastal Conservation League sponsored a community-input meeting, “Designing A Future For Lady’s Island.” More than 450 Lady’s Island residents and users showed up, spending three hours sharing thoughts and ideas about growth and development on the island.
The meeting was necessary because Lady’s Island — with a population on par with that of the city of Beaufort — had largely been ignored by both the city and Beaufort County. Never had there been an adopted Community Development Plan or Master Plan for Lady’s Island per se.
Directly as a result, but not without some urging — and give the city and the county some credit for listening and responding — an in-depth traffic study was commissioned and completed. “Fixes” were identified, and with the passage of the penny sales tax, nine major traffic improvements on the island are funded and are moving forward.
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Another simultaneous initiative, however, was the development of a “comprehensive vision” for Lady’s Island — “The Lady’s Island Plan 2018” — involving Beaufort County, the city of Beaufort and the Town of Port Royal.
Since January, planners from each of these jurisdictions, with help from an outside consultant, have been working with a 10-member steering committee drawn from the community to define this vision and detail steps necessary to make it real.
On Nov. 29, the Lady’s Island Plan 2018 will be released in a public meeting at 6 p.m. at Lady’s Island Middle School.
This plan is long overdue, perhaps, but all the more essential today.
The plan addresses seven key issues:
▪ Managing growth.
▪ Creating a walkable Lady’s Island center.
▪ Strengthening neighborhoods.
▪ Managing traffic congestion.
▪ Improving bicycle and pedestrian access.
▪ Requiring adequate public infrastructure.
▪ Improving transparency in decision-making.
Its release is not the end of the process, but just the beginning. It must first be endorsed by the county and each of the municipalities involved before the real work can begin.
All this has been a fascinating process, and perhaps the most important stimulus was an engaged public that showed up back in 2017 and demanded action. This, more than any mere election, was democracy in action — and we might hope it is a model for community engagement throughout the county. Nothing like this ever happened before in Beaufort County, we are told.
But if those who live on, or use, Lady’s Island genuinely want to see change happen, they must turn out on Nov. 29 and let the rest of the community and local governments know they remain concerned, engaged and expectant.
As we have repeatedly voiced, “The world is run by those who show up.” And it will be.
Chuck Newton chairs the Sea Island Corridor Coalition; Seaislandcoalition.com; designingladysisland.com.