HDRB wants city to review demo plan

5 mins read

By Mindy Lucas

Property owners need to take action if they’ve received approval for demolition and not sit on permits forever, the City of Beaufort’s Historic District Review Board says.

That was one of seven recommendations put forward in a letter written and approved by members of the review board to be sent to the city for consideration.

“In the past, demolition permits have been approved and property owners have not taken action in a timely manner,” the letter starts. “When an owner receives approval to demolish a structure, action should be taken to demolish and therefore prevent further hazardous or unsafe conditions to the property.”

There are currently no expiration dates placed on approvals and permits issued by the City of Beaufort.

However, in its two-page letter dated April 1, the review board suggests the city change the Beaufort Code to place a 24-month limit on demolition after the property owner receives approval and an issuance of a Certificate of Appropriateness.

Under the revised code, property owners would be required to receive a permit for demolition and complete the demolition process and cleanup before the expiration date. In addition, demolition approvals would not receive automatic extensions as they have in the past.

The recommendations come on the heels of recent controversy over the demolition of several buildings in Beaufort’s downtown commercial district that many residents believed were happening too close together or without much warning.

In addition, both board members and residents have said they do not wish to see vacant lots sitting empty while projects either continue to make their way through other stages of planning, stall altogether or take years to complete.

“While I do understand there is concern about this process, we are charged with following through the very best we can with these laws and make the best decision we can make on each of them,” said review board chairman John Dickerson at the board’s March meeting.

Some, such as the Bampfield Building at 307 West Street, torn down in March, are thought to have had historical significance.

However, that building and another at 211 Charles Street, also slated for demolition, wasn’t on the city’s list of contributing properties which the review board has said it is charged with going by.

While the city’s preservation manuals and list of contributing and non-contributing properties are currently being reviewed in a separate process, many have said the city needs to also review its demolition ordinances.

At the March meeting of the Historic District Review Board (HDRB), Historic Beaufort Foundation asked for a moratorium on all demolitions planned for the downtown historic district until the city’s demolition process could be revisited.

However, at least two review board members said the HDRB didn’t have the right to issue moratoriums.

“We don’t have the ability based on the Beaufort Code, Milner or anything else. No where in there does it say we have the ability to do a moratorium because we want to in the future go have somebody do something like revise the contributing property list,” Dickerson said.

The board’s letter goes on to list several other recommendations including approval of demolition for contributing historic structures be based on the structural integrity of the building and other compelling information. Demolition for non-contributing structures may be approved provided clear reasons warrant demolition for the good of projects that enhance the community, the letter also stated.

It is unknown when the city will take up the issue. The next regularly scheduled City Council meeting is April 27.

RECENTLY DEMOLISHED

The following buildings in Beaufort’s downtown commercial district have been demolished in last three years:

The Bampfield Building, at 307 West Street

821 Port Republic, directly across from The Beaufort Inn

346 West Street, former home of Nippy’s restaurant

BUILDINGS SET TO BE DEMOLISHED

211 Charles Street, home of a former A&P grocery store

905 Port Republic Street, former home of the Pat Conroy Literary Center and other businesses

Mindy Lucas is the Beaufort reporter for The Island News and is a staff writer for Lowcountry Weekly. She can be reached at mindy.islandnews@gmail.com.

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