LOWCOUNTRY LOWDOWN

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By Lolita Huckaby

Got your decal?

Beaufort – County public relations folks have been working hard to notify taxpayers as of April 1, the new windshield decal system implemented last year is “going live.”

This means those inspectors at the county’s nine public convenience centers are gonna get tough on those who try to sneak into the gated sites to dispose of their garbage. For those who STILL haven’t gotten their decals … and yes, there are some folks out there who HAVE applied and not received any decals … be prepared.

And … no surprise … the County Council is already talking about Phase 2 – imposing a new fee to support the solid waste program. Council gave the first of three readings to the ordinance this week, although a lot of details haven’t been ironed out.

A cost of $194 annually was thrown out, but staff was directed to figure out how much that cost compares with the taxes paid by property owners for garbage disposal.

As a lot of ideas to raise money, this proposal may not pass, but you might want to pay attention. You could zoom watch the County Council meetings on the county’s Facebook page if you’re so inclined or go to the County Council meeting agendas and read the background report.

Or you can just wait until the idea is adopted, the elected officials bless the idea and it shows up on your tax bill.

Like the Spring robins, cruise ships are back

BEAUFORT – After a year’s absence, a cruise ship was tied up to the downtown seawall this past weekend.

Cruise ships were one of the first transportation methods to close down in the Covid-19 quarantine, but reports are some companies are slowly returning to their tour schedules.

The American Cruise Line vessel which visited Beaufort had only 30 passengers and they apparently weren’t allowed to shop downtown. City officials said they had no idea the boats were coming and wasn’t sure when others would be following.

Over in Port Royal, folks there also aren’t sure when the two Victory Cruise Line ships harboring there for the past year will be leaving.

Beaufort Tribune surfaces again

BEAUFORT – The “battle” for the future of Beaufort – Dick Stewart and 303 Associates vs. Historic Beaufort Foundation – has turned into something of a “war of words.”

Stewart, as head of the development company 303 Associates, in a paid full-page ad in last week’s The Island News criticized the HBF and its departing chairman John Troutman for not working with his efforts.

In opposition to Stewart’s plans for the downtown area, specifically Port Republic Street, local businessman and developer George Trask has resurrected his online newspaper, The Beaufort Tribune, to run a series of articles on 303’s projects.

George’s son, Graham Trask, who also owns property in the downtown area, including the former Fordham Hardware Building and 209 West Street where a three-story retail and residential building has been permitted, has raised questions about the legality of the city’s permitting process.

Pending any legal challenges being filed, the next phase will be final plans for the replacement building at 303 Charles Street to be presented to the city Historic Review Board. The board earlier this month gave approval to the demolition at 303 Charles Street, contingent on building approval being issued for the replacement. The Historic Beaufort Foundation has issued no public statements in response to Stewart’s charges.

Southside Park ideas pile in

BEAUFORT – City officials were hoping to get lots of public input on the future of Southside Park and it happened – a thousand primarily online responses have been received prior to this weekend’s deadline for comment.

A special citizens task force was formed by the City Council at the start of the year to collect ideas on how the popular park on Southside Blvd. should be developed. The tract, once owned by the Beaufort-Jasper Water and Sewer Authority, currently has an informal walking path and a very popular dog park.

The future of the park has been a subject of much discussion and several studies since the Mossy Oaks area, where the Southside Park is located, is one of the more politically active neighborhoods in the city. Once the ideas are consolidated and prioritized, a price tag can be placed on the project and we’ll see how quickly it happens.

Bridges tells Port Royal adios

PORT ROYAL – March is Women’s History Month, and you had better believe there’s plenty of women making history in this community to celebrate.

As a supporter of good planning and its long-range impact on how our communities may, or may not, develop, Port Royal Planning Director Linda Bridges is at the top of this columnist’s list.

Bridges who is retiring after 22 years in the various town administrative offices along Paris Avenue has seen a lot of comings-and-goings and probably made more than one property owner angry at her.

But the planners use the “plans” adopted by the elected officials and sometimes … just sometimes … the elected officials do something different. She follows Beaufort City Planner Libby Anderson who left quietly almost two years ago after 20 years in the hot spot.

Good thing they waited until after St. Pat’s

BEAUFORT – If you’re planning a trip to Savannah via U.S.17 (is there any other way from Beaufort County except by boat?), you might want to plan for some delays.

The S.C. Department of Transportation, after years of talk, begun work on widening that 4.2 mile stretch between the Talmadge Bridge and the U.S. 17-S.C.315 intersection from two to four-lanes. Known as the Speedway Boulevard, roadside clearing began more than a year ago but notices are out it’s time for the real construction begin.

The once scenic strip – wetlands and strip clubs – has an estimated 18,000 vehicles traveling it daily. But DOT stresses the construction delays will be “slight” and they plan to keep lanes of traffic open.

Lolita Huckaby Watson is a community volunteer and former reporter/editor with The Beaufort Gazette, The Savannah Morning News, Bluffton Today and Beaufort Today. She can be reached at bftbay@gmail.com.