By Peggy Simmer
I am writing (May 4, 2022) with a correction and clarification to The Island News article, “Downtown apartment building earns final approval,” (written) by Tony Kukulich (in the April 21 edition).
It appears that Kukulich was misled by Beaufort Historic District Review Board (HRB) member Maxine Lutz.
As background, the article refers to a meeting of the HRB which occurred on April 13, 2022. During public comment regarding a proposed apartment building at 211 Charles Street, four members of the public provided comments.
… they were split evenly between those in favor of the project and those opposed. Peggy Simmer, who spoke in support of the project, drew the ire of Lutz after Simmer leveled criticism at the HRB and the Historic Beaufort Foundation. Simmer said the HRB “seems to have lost its way” and referred to the board’s concerns about the balconies as potential homeowners association or code enforcement issues, and well outside the purview of the board.
“I resent the tirade that just occurred.” Lutz said following Simmer’s remarks. “I also recall that our instructions initially at each meeting include that the public that speakers should identify what their relationship is to the project and if they have any financial connections to the project.”
According to the article, in an email to The Island News following the meeting, Lutz said that Simmer’s criticisms were a violation of HRB protocol and should not have been allowed.
As quoted in the article, Lutz added, “This is the third blatant time that a member of the public has offered support for the project without mentioning their relationship to the developer.”
Ms. Lutz is incorrect regarding what is required when a member of the public speaks. For the record, what is required when speaking during “Public Comment” at a City of Beaufort Historic District Review Board (HRB) meeting is ONLY your name and address, NOT your relationship to the project nor any financial connections you have to the project.
This is documented both in the recording of the meeting, and in the reference below taken from the City of Beaufort (SC) Facebook page video archive of the HRB meeting on April 13.
City Beaufort SC
TO COMMENT (If comment is called): Please join via zoom. If you have a relevant comment, raise your hand with the “raise your hand” function. When public comment is called, you will be acknowledged, please state your name and address and you will be given time to speak. Please keep your hand raised until you’ve spoken.
We chose to state our relationship to the project – our historic residence will be most impacted by this project as we live directly across the street. However, we did not disclose nor were we (or anyone else for that matter) required to disclose any financial or other connections to the project.
We are concerned that Ms. Lutz’s implication that those speaking in favor of the project, including myself and my husband, have a connection to the developer which was published by The Island News without any attempt to contact us to determine if we actually have any connection to the developer of this property.
For the record, my husband (who also spoke in favor the project) and I have NO financial connection of any kind to this project, nor to Mr. Dick Stewart or 303 Associates (the developer of the project) and we have never had.
Given that The Island News did not check the facts before publishing this unfounded allegation, we request that a correction be published in The Island News explaining that disclosure of relationships is not required before making a public comment, and clarifying that my husband and I have no connection, financial or otherwise to the developer or his company. Please also reflect these changes in the online version of the article.
We also expect that you will contact us (or anyone else in our situation) in the future before publishing information that implies improper or unethical behavior by an individual identified in your publication.
We would also note that we believe it was inappropriate and unprofessional of an HRB member (Ms. Lutz) to insinuate that there was a financial connection because we were in support of the project and to use her position on the board to question the integrity of members of the public without any evidence. If she really wanted to know, all she had to do was ask.
As for my remarks, they were NOT in violation of HRB protocol as Ms. Lutz suggested. My remarks, while critical, all related to the project at hand and were simply to point out the impact that the HRB and the Historic Beaufort Foundation (HBF) have had on us and that both HRB and HBF need to be held accountable for their words and actions and they need to stay within their respective swim lanes.