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Cannon Building
Artist’s rendering of the Cannon Building, planned for the corner of Charles and Port Republic streets.

Apartment project sent back to drawing board

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Cannon Building planned for corner of Charles, Port Republic streets

By Tony Kukulich

Developer Dick Stewart of 303 Associates hoped to get final approval for the Cannon Building – a three-story, 19-unit apartment building planned for the corner of Charles and Port Republic streets – when the project appeared before the City of Beaufort Historic District Review Board (HRB) last week.

Instead, debate over balconies and bricks derailed that plan.

By the conclusion of the meeting, the HRB required the project’s architect, Arnie McClure of Coast Architects, Inc to present the board another round of design options.

The HRB took issue with several of the project’s design elements during a long and contentious meeting, but struggled to come to agreement on the type of direction that should be provided back to McClure.

Boardmember Michelle Prentice said that it wasn’t the board’s job to design the building, while fellow boardmembers Mike Sutton and Stacy Applegate took a contradictory position.

“If we’re denying them something, it’s our job to tell them why,” Applegate said.

As the board discussed the extent of their obligations, those associated with the project pressed for clear and unambiguous direction.

“We really need to know what you want us to do,” said Walter Nester, counsel for 303 Associates. “Because, as Ms. Applegate said, there was something that we were supposed to do last time that wasn’t articulated in the motion. Ok, we understand that. But now we’re asking you. You need to articulate it. You can’t say, ‘Some other color.’ You can’t say, ‘Some other brick.’ … We can’t come again for a fifth time and find that there’s something else that isn’t desired.”

Much of the board’s concern over the building’s design centered on the presence of porches and balconies. The board expressed a desire to see a design devoid of outdoor spaces, a request that drew a reaction from Stewart.

“My point when I stood up earlier and said what I said about porches is that Arnie is a talented architect, and we looked at it,” Stewart said. “We think it’s horrible. We think you’ll look at it and you’ll think it’s horrible, too, if the issue is to design a building that’s going to work in Beaufort.”

Nester noted as he addressed the board, that porches and balconies have been part of the design from the beginning. He argued that the design was previously approved and as such, was not within the purview of the current approval process.

“The structure, what you’re looking at, that’s been here since the initial design was presented,” he said. “That has already been decided by previous HRBs.”

Despite the argument, boardmembers voiced concern over the design.

“This does not have something that will hold for 200 years,” Prentis said. “It will look bad in 200 years. It will not be an attractive space on Port Republic. This is not also just for the people who live here now. This is for the people who will live here when we’re dead and gone. Listening to the public and the people of the surroundings, yes that’s relevant. But this is a legacy that we’re passing on to the next generation of this city. I can tell you 100% that this will not look good, even in 50 years.”

During the public comment portion of the meeting, developer Graham Trask was among those who spoke in opposition to the project. He suggested that Sutton should recuse himself from the process because his wife rents property from 303 Associates. Additionally, he argued that the entire process should have been delayed until there was a ruling on a pending appeal of the project’s preliminary approval that was granted Dec. 8.

After a 10-minute recess, Beaufort City Attorney Bill Harvey addressed the concerns raised by Trask and others.

“The appeal of the December decision does not automatically act as a stay of any further proceedings on this project,” Harvey said. “In other words, there has been no petition. There has been no motion before a judge. There has been no request by any of the appellants in the appeal of the December decision. Speaking of stay, they could have done that and the judge could have issued an order of supersedence. That has not been done. Given that, this proceeding is proper and should be allowed to proceed by state law.”

Harvey also stated that the Ethics Commission ruled informally that there is no conflict related to Sutton’s participation in the proceedings. That ruling came after Sutton requested the commission’s review.

Tony Kukulich is a recent transplant to the Lowcountry. A native of Wilmington, Del., he comes to The Island News from the San Francisco Bay Area where he spent seven years as a reporter and photographer for several publications. He and his wife enjoy exploring their new home state. He can also frequently be found playing bass guitar with a couple of local bands. He can be reached at tony.theislandnews@gmail.com.

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