Are Beaufortonians concerned about overdevelopment?

5 mins read

By Tim Wood

Kristy and I arrived in Beaufort in the fall of 1974. Kristy was pregnant with our first child, Alison. We got to see the Bay St. waterfront just before the establishment of the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park and the Downtown Marina.

We had stopped to visit my mother, (who had retired here), intending to move back to the Pacific Northwest. My mother lived on Wilson Dr., and at that time, I was an apprentice carpenter.

We had been living in New Hampshire when my boss informed me he could not guarantee work through the long New England winter. So staying there was not an option.

After arriving, just for the heck of it, I walked around town on our second or third day here asking about work. I simply walked into both Rentz’s and Cappleman’s local construction companies asking about work: both companies asked if I could start the following day.

To me, Beaufort in late November felt like late May in New Hampshire. All Kris and I owned was in our van, along with enough cash to get us to the California/Oregon coast. I went to Kris that evening and told her maybe we should consider staying here; both our families were on the east coast, and I had never seen such an abundance of available work in the building trades.

And another thing, … Beaufort would always keep its small town charm.

We did settle here, bought our home and raised our three kids. And through our first 20 years, I felt secure and happy with Beaufort’s growth. I believed the “real” frenzied growth would always take place on Hilton Head Island.

Then in the 1990s came Del Webb, burgeoning development on Dataw Island, the BRAC (military base closure and realignment, which increased growth at both Parris Island and MCAS Beaufort) and the growing movie productions. I believe that these were the main factors contributing to Beaufort’s “discovery.”

Residential population in Beaufort County in 1974 was around 54,000. In 2020 it was around 200,000. Over 50 years that’s an average growth of approximately 3,000 people per year. If you look at a graph of this growth it climbs at a 75 degree angle over those years.

Hilton Head Island is now looking at a six-lane bridge for access to the island, and it seems Beaufort and Port Royal are looking more and more like they are becoming present-day Mount Pleasant. Most of our friends here in Beaufort do seem to share our concern over this growth and overdevelopment, which also shows itself on our waterways. What I am constantly asking myself now is, “What is the consensus of concern on overdevelopment within the entire Beaufort-area population?”

I’ve reluctantly accepted that Hilton Head and Bluffton are already lost to overdevelopement, and that that growth will soon gobble up Hardeeville and Ridgeland. I’d like to know how our citizens from Dale all the way down to Fripp Island feel about the barreling growth of our northern Beaufort County area.

I’ve come to believe the only true way of knowing how the majority of our local population feels about overdevelopemnet in our Beaufort area would be by a referendum on development. An example of a voting referendum could be capping annual residential growth at 0.75 percent; a one-year moratorium on condominium developments (in order to study need and location); or cessation of the development of large, residential neighborhoods.

We already have enough residential neighborhoods, we should concentrate on infill and open land purchases. I believe in majority rule within secure, democratic voting; I think true majority rule is the best system for a society.

If my fellow citizens in Beaufort want our continuing unabated growth, so be it. If my fellow Beaufortorians want controlled, smart growth, then let’s work on establishing those limitations.

Isn’t it time to be able to vote on it? Is it now time for Beaufortonians to be concerned about our future?

Tim and Kristy Wood moved to Beaufort in 1974. He worked as a carpenter in both restoration and new home construction, as well as operating a shop specializing in custom woodwork, Wood on Wood Specs. He is semi-retired, involved with fine woodworking and sits on the City of Beaufort Zoning Board of Appeals.

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