By Mindy Lucas
The fate of a local historic preservation group’s seat on the city of Beaufort’s review board may finally be decided.
In a move that could be claimed as a victory for the Historic Beaufort Foundation (HBF), Beaufort’s city council has voted to amend the city code so that one of the five seats on the city’s Historic Review Board (HRB) essentially remains an HBF seat.
The unanimous vote came at city council’s most recent meeting on Tuesday, June 9, in which members of the mayor-appointed task force, comprised of city council members and HBF representatives, expressed a fondness for working with each other on the issue.
“We all certainly feel that we’ve made great progress and look forward to continuing that,” said HBF’s executive director Cynthia Jenkins.
Phil Cromer, one of two city council members on the task force agreed.
“I think it’s a great resolution to a problem that we’ve had. Finally, for once in a long while, it’s clear as to what we can do,” he said.
The comments were in stark contrast to a contentious Dec. 10 council meeting which erupted in shouting and one council member walking out.
HBF’s longstanding seat was first broached last fall as editorials both for and against the seat’s removal ran in The Island News. A city council meeting that followed the editorials brought out impassioned members of the community on both sides of the issue.
In November, council members then voted on first reading to remove the seat, but in an abrupt turn of events just two weeks later members voted to table the issue.
Formed in December to take up the issue along with other topics, the task force sought the opinion of the South Carolina Attorney General.
In an April 13 letter, the AG issued its opinion stating that the city’s ordinance “cannot require candidates [to the Historic Review Board] be members of the private organization making the nomination.”
The code previously stated the seat must be held by a member of the HBF board. The change to the code, however slight, by all intents and purposes keeps a representative nominated by the HBF on the city’s review board, Jenkins confirmed.
Asked about the council’s vote to amend the code, Jenkins said, “I think it’s huge.”
“We have a 52-year track record working together, HBF and the city, and we want to continue that,” she said. “I’m really excited about the education and technical processes we’re looking at, and the events we’ve been able to do jointly with the city. … It’s just a win-win for everybody.”
The task force also provided a report to city council at the meeting which included such recommendations as a review of the Milner Manual, or the preservation manual often cited or used to inform members or applicants bringing projects before the city.
The vote to amend the city code was made on first reading and will require a second reading before it is passed.