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LOWCOUNTRY LOWDOWN

8 mins read


Summer reading recommendations – Comprehensive plans 

BEAUFORT – From the beginning of time, we have had planners. God had a seven-day plan which covered all fronts – first light, then dark, the earth, the water, plants and tree, land and sea creatures and last, but not least, people. Then he rested. 

Ever since then, we’ve had planners among us, and as civilization has evolved, it seems we do more and more planning. 

In this summer doldrums as the housing industry and traffic grow expediently, we have plans about the future to consider. 

Comprehensive development plans, according to state law are to be updated every five years and rewritten every decade. Counties and municipalities got a reprieve last year because of COVID-19 but now that annual budgets are passed and we’ve taken our masks off, it’s time to get to work on those plans. 

Over-riding philosophies for all these documents is to promote growth while protecting assets. We can reflect on how successful that’s been during the 20 past years of growth directed by these plans. 

Beaufort County is in the process of updating its Comprehensive Plan with a number of public hearings already held on the document prepared by paid consultants DesignWorkShop. Port Royal is doing the same. 

The county document has already drawn criticism from at least one group, the newly formed Lowcountry Equitable Land and Trust whose members feel the plan does not adequately promote the needs of Black property owners. 

Beaufort residents are being asked to review the city’s draft plan, an 111-page document which was largely done in-house but with heavy reliance on other official documents including the 2030 Future Vision Plan and support from the Lowcountry Council of Governments. 

The draft plan is out there on the city’s web page, ready for public consumption. There will be public, in-person meetings on Aug. 5 and 12 to discuss the details with public comment also available online. 

The Coastal Conservation League, which has its own team of planners who review these types of documents, has already taken aim at the city’s draft, calling it a “disjointed and threadbare plan.” 

There’s a lot of interesting information in these documents about population growth and housing trends, but it’s admittedly difficult to generate public interest. None of these documents will be on anyone’s top-10 reading lists. 

But when it comes to complaining about why is there so much growth happening on Lady’s Island or talk about “affordable housing,” it might be helpful, as informed citizens, to believe there’s … a plan. 

The goal of all is to be finished by early fall or definitely, the end of the year. Then we can rest. 


Proposed Hwy. 278 changes meet with public opposition 

HILTON HEAD ISLAND – Speaking of plans, the state Department of Transportation had a public hearing last week on the latest plans for the new U.S. 278 roadway onto Hilton Head Island. 

The consensus, according to reports in THE ISLAND PACKET, was “you can do better than this.” 

Looks like it’s back to the drawing boards. 

And speaking of news from south of the Broad, IP columnist David Lauderdale – who really knows how to string words together – wrote a lovely feature about former Mayor Tom Peeples who is retiring and closing the home construction business he started on the island in 1983. 

Lauderdale said a lot of nice things about Peeples, but several things jumped out: He was the only Lowcountry native to serve as mayor of the town since its incorporation in 1983 and the only mayor to be re-elected to a second term. 

According to Lauderdale, the former mayor got interested in local politics in the late 1980s when a Traffic Safety Amendment was on the local ballot, a proposal to stop all building permits if motorists on the island had to sit in traffic for more than two stop-light changes. 

It failed but Peeples’ comments at a public hearing about the impact such an amendment would have on the building economy made him a favorite. 


Let’s think about redistricting 

BEAUFORT – And if you wish to take a break from reading all those plans, the state senators would like to know what you think about redistricting. 

The one local public hearing on the issue has been scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 4 from 4 until 6 p.m. at the Technical College of the Lowcountry auditorium. 

There are no plans for you to look at, first because, theoretically, the Senate’s Redistricting Committee hasn’t come up with a redistricting plan for citizens to comment on. You can bet they have plans since they’ve seen the census figures which show the state grew by 500,000 residents in the past decade. 

How the lines for the 46 state senate districts and the 124 House of Representatives districts will be changed is to be drafted by committees from both houses with a goal of completion in October, in time for 2022 campaign filings. 

With the growth in the Lowcountry, Republican Sen. Tom Davis can expect to see some shifting in his District 46 which includes southern Beaufort County, parts of northern Beaufort County and part of Jasper County. Some predict Rep. Sen. Chip Campsen in District 43, resident of Charleston County, will get a larger part of northern Beaufort County. 

This redistricting process will continue at all levels in the next months, all in time for next year’s elections. U.S. Congressional seats will be realigned, as well as the state House and Senate. 

Then there are the 11 Beaufort County Council districts, which the 11 school board districts mirror. 

Again, stay tuned. 

Lolita Huckaby Watson is a community volunteer and former reporter/editorial assistant/columnist with The Beaufort Gazette, The Savannah Morning News, Bluffton Today, Beaufort Today and The Robesonian (Lumberton, N.C.). She can be reached at bftbay@gmail.com. 

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