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LOWCOUNTRY LOWDOWN

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County Planning Commission closing in on their part of Comp Plan

 BEAUFORT – Members of the Beaufort County Planning Commission demonstrated Monday night they’ve been doing their homework – reading and pondering the 300-page “Envision Beaufort County,” aka the Comp Plan. 

The Commissioners took less than an hour of their regular monthly meeting to review the latest document designed to guide development through 2040. Drafted by the county planning staff and consultants DesignWorkShop, the document which is required by state law, has been in the proverbial works since March 2020 and been presented to at-least four in-person hearings plus a community session last month held by Councilmembers Paul Sommerville and York Glover. 

The latest draft addresses the major concerns raised in public comments – affordable housing, heirs property, protection of historic cemeteries, sand mining, public water supplies and equity of public resources, a point stressed by the Lowcountry Equitable Land Trust and the Coastal Conservation League. 

The document will be reviewed one more time by the Commission before it goes to County Council for public hearing and three votes. 

And in the city of Beaufort, public meetings on its document are scheduled Aug. 10 and 12. 

So as a concerned citizen interested in the future of the county, you still have time to do that summer reading. 


Another example of officials with tied hands 

BEAUFORT – With the recent upswing in Delta variant COVID cases has come the mask debate.

As we all cross our fingers and hope we don’t have to go back to mandatory masking, school districts across South Carolina already have their marching orders from Columbia – there will be no mandatory masking when classes begin later this month.

This directive happens to be, strangely enough, tacked into the state budget which was passed by the Legislature when it went back into special session on June 9 … to deal with the budget. The directive was approved … not so strangely … primarily along partisan lines.

The budget add-on which says school boards cannot mandate masks may leave some room for interpretation according to Democratic opponents of the bill. But that would mean going to court, spending dollars on lawyers which could be better spent on children’s’ education.

And the state school officials’ response: their hands are tied.


Score one for the County in the billboard battles

BEAUFORT – A recent ruling in magistrate’s court is one sign Beaufort County takes its’ billboards seriously.

Judge Nancy Sadler ruled last week that Adams Outdoor Advertising had erred in making repairs to two existing billboards along S.C. 21 without county approval.

The county’s 20-plus-year-old sign ordinance prohibits new billboards and requires removal of signs that considered dilapidated. At the time of its passage, the ordinance allowed existing billboards to be “grandfathered” with the intent they all eventually go away with deterioration.

Attorneys for the advertising company argued they had state Department of Transportation approval for the repair work.

Adams has also approached the county about the installation of 10 digital billboards, similar to the ones on the west side of S.C. 170 in the Okatie area. The west side of the road is Jasper County, which does not prohibit the signs as Beaufort County’s ordinance currently does.

The County Council is in the process of updating its sign ordinance to specifically restrict digital signs but Adams Outdoor Advertising has sued local governments, including the town of Mt. Pleasant, challenging that prohibition.

The company has not indicated whether it will appeal the latest ruling.


And the walls came tumbling down

BEAUFORT – Luckily, the walls did NOT come tumbling down at 724 Bay Street last week, but they did bulge.

Bystanders noticed a slight bulge in the brick veneer of the exterior wall on the Scott Street Extension Friday afternoon, prompting the city to close the street next to Hearth restaurant.

Deals clothing store, owned and operated by Connie Kling for the past 32 years, is in the process of closing, but the shoppers looking for a last-minute sales bargain apparently were not to blame.

Reportedly, it’s not a structural issue on the circa 1910 building owned by Graham Trask. It was another Trask-owned structure in the 200 block of Carteret Street, behind what was Fordham Hardware, where the roof partially collapsed in March as the building was being renovated.

Ironically, it’s concern about the structural impact on these historic buildings that has many residents worried about the potential impact of the massive new buildings proposed by Dick Stewart and 303 Associates – you know, the parking garage, three-story apartment building on Charles and a new hotel on Scott Street.


Corrections

The July 22 column reference to Henry Robert’s RULES OF ORDER prompted two comments for correction. One, it’s “Robert”, not with an “s” and two, the military commander was not born in Jasper but the Beaufort District, which included what we now know as Jasper County. Thank you to the historians who read.

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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