Letters to the Editor

in Voices by

County needs to be held accountable

The Wall Street Journal now has quarterly financial results for many companies, less than 20 days after the close of their quarter.

Beaufort County finally started putting quarterly general fund reports on their website this year.

However, the last one posted is for the period ended April 30. It is now almost six months since then and nothing has been posted.

Also, Beaufort County fails to post capital spending, so its performance against original estimates can not be measured.

However, they do post results against the 2006 referendum since we started using a FOIA request to get it.

The worst performance was on the Bluffton Parkway. The estimate we voted upon in 2006 was for $60 million. They have now spent over $80 million and the administration had requested the state for $43 million more to do the northern portion, which was in the original estimate. It is not done.

If they had received that additional money, the total cost would be $123 million or more than twice the estimate.

The bridge to Lady’s Island and road widening were 40-percent overspent.

Did County Council investigate such massive overspending?  How did it happen?  Does council even care? In industry some heads would have rolled with that kind of performance. Council should establish policy and do their job instead of spending all their time trying to micromanage.

They pay themselves for up to 140 meetings a year, but can’t be bothered with policy making or investigating massive overspending, which they may fail to know about for lack of reports.

I met with the council chairman about two or three years ago and provided him with the county reports, and discussed the massive overspending. Apparently it just rolled off with no interest in how it happened.

Jim Bequette

How much dirt is too much dirt?

Since 1991, when Beaufort County begin implementing very some basic forms of zoning, planners in the Lowcountry have been faced with a multitude of challenges.

A consistent challenge has been to protect the water from pollution resulting from development. At the same time it has become obvious that an obligation exists to protect human life from flooding.

In an effort to respond to both of these challenges, regulations (county, state and federal) have evolved in regard to the handling of storm water and the elevation at which new buildings must be built to minimize the danger of flooding.

At county and municipal level the enforcement tools to protect lives and property, while avoiding pollution of our water ways includes basic zoning and building permits.

Building permits routinely require that the ground floor of new building be above the base flood elevation (BFE) which is the computed elevation to which floodwater is anticipated to rise during a once in a 100-year flood.

If a piece of property is below the base flood elevation,, there are basically two ways to raise the ground floor of a new buildings to an elevation above the BFE: fill dirt or elevate the foundation walls. It is not uncommon to see homes here in Beaufort County with the ground floor elevated through the use of raised foundation walls.

When you realize that 61 percent of the land in Beaufort County is in a floodplain, it should come as no surprise that the use of fill dirt to raise the ground floor above the base flood elevation is also not uncommon.  However, most cases require only a minimal increase of elevation.

The primary reason for it only being used for minimal elevation increases is that it is an expensive procedure and normally is cost prohibitive.

This had been the case in Northern Beaufort County until Walmart arrived on Lady’s Island and used 20,000 truckloads of fill dirt to raise the elevation of its building site.

We now have a national restaurant chain (Taco Bell) requesting to build a store on a nearby piece of property which would require 7 feet of increased elevation to place their ground floor at 1 foot above the base flood elevation.

Certainly the store could be built with a 7-foot raised foundation wall although this would challenge the concept of a drive through.

The alternative is another case of extensive use of fill dirt, which brings up the question of how much elevation should be allowed through the use of fill dirt.

If cost is not a controlling factor perhaps we should consider establishing a limit on how much dirt can be moved or a maximum allowable elevation increase which may be authorized to allow a new building.

The subjects of climate change, global warming, ocean rise and storm water management are complex, controversial and often confusing. But establishing a limit as to how high or how much dirt should be allowed to be used to increase the elevation of a development site should not be that complex or confusing.

Lady’s Island Business and Professional Association

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