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Here comes Publix, there go more trees

BEAUFORT – There was much rejoicing last month when one of the community’s least-kept secrets was officially verified – Publix is coming to the west side of the city.

And for the few tree-huggers still around, there was even a sigh that at least this one wouldn’t require the removal of wooded space since it’s being built on the site of the former Plaza Theater.

Well, not quite.

Trees did come down for this new grocery store, or at least for the parking lot. The wooded acre behind the store site was cleared to create parking for the new store AND an apartment complex that’s planned there.

The removal didn’t prompt any of the controversy that was generated back in 1993 when the first Lady’s Island Publix was proposed and those concerned about the tree removal fought back. The protest made it all the way to the S.C. Supreme Court before the Publix folks got permission to build with abbreviated tree removal.

And of course, when the “new” Publix was built across the street in 2014, some pretty magnificent trees on that wooded site went down practically overnight one weekend. At least they got more parking.

Clemson leads mask ticketing

CLEMSON – News was last week the Clemson Police Department wrote 147 tickets in one night for violations of the town’s mask ordinance.

And how many tickets have been written here in Beaufort, you might ask?

None, according to a check with the sheriff’s department and the city codes inspector who enforces Beaufort’s mask ordinance.

Warnings have been issued but no $50 tickets. Of course, Clemson IS a university town. But so is Beaufort. And our students are back, in class and testing positive for COVID-19, so far in very limited numbers. (Eight members of the women’s soccer team were quarantined last month after a player tested positive.)

You can judge for yourself how successful Beaufort’s approach of “educating” individuals about the dangers is working just by looking around you as you venture out. 

Impact fees getting study

BEAUFORT – While we sit around and wait to see what the rest of 2020 will bring, be assured our County Council representatives are looking for ways to raise revenue.

They’re looking at impact fees, and an out-of-town consulting firm has spent the last year looking for ways the County can charge citizens for services.

The school impact fee, which the Board of Education is pushing, already has received one of three necessary votes of approval to charge newcomers SOUTH OF THE BROAD RIVER for new schools. But the vote there was tight, 5 to 4, and with the homebuilders associations watching carefully, it’s hard to tell whether the fee will be passed or not.

And with the school impact fee on the table, the council is also studying the consultants’ fee recommendations for law enforcement services (just on Hilton Head Island), solid waste and recycling, parks and recreation, libraries and EMS.

The idea of passing along a fee for law enforcement services on Hilton Head Island, which doesn’t have its own police force, is favored by our north of the Broad Council representatives. They contend it’s only fair since Beaufort citizens have to pay for a police department AND the sheriff’s department – why shouldn’t those on the Island?

And Hilton Head’s response? Maybe they should sue.

The solid waste and recycling fee is also gaining traction with Council pondering a decal system for those who plan to use the county “convenience” centers. A decal one would pay for, of course.

It’s interesting, … and may be costly. Stay tuned.

Days of Our Lives, county-style

BEAUFORT – Speaking of suing, that’s what the county treasurer is doing to the county auditor.

Treasurer Maria Walls recently filed a harassment lawsuit against Auditor Jim Beckert, claiming he intimidated and bullied her and other female employees in the county workplace.

And in other comings and goings in the county complex, Public Information Officer Liz Farrell is heading across the government campus to the Sheriff’s Department, where she will be assistant PIO. Leaving the job she started in April, Farrell most likely will still be paid more than when she was an editor at THE ISLAND PACKET.

Lolita Huckaby Watson is a community volunteer, I-95 and U.S. 17 voyager and works for an online news service covering local government. She is a former reporter/editorial assistant/columnist with The Beaufort Gazette, The Savannah Morning News, Bluffton Today and Beaufort Today. She can be reached at bftbay@gmail.com.