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LOWCOUNTRY LOWDOWN

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County narrowly moves forward with resilience overlay standards 

BEAUFORT – It’s been painful to watch the flooding and destruction Hurricane Ida has dumped on the Gulf communities down south, knowing that could happen here in the Lowcountry. 

Realizing there’s little we can do to stop hurricanes, two new ordinances proposed by the county’s Storm Water Task Force are designed to help minimize flooding caused by hurricanes and high tides. 

And as simple as that might sound – to protect property owners – passage of these ordinances, particularly one of them, demonstrates once again, things aren’t as simple as they seem. 

The County Council last week passed without opposition an ordinance to limit the amount of infill a builder can dump onto a low-lying lot for construction, activity that can disrupt the natural drainage patterns 

It’s the Coastal Resilience Overlay, CRO, ordinance that’s causing heartburn for part of the community. 

The county’s real estate and development community put on a full-court press to delay passage of the CRO. Their concern is the requirement to notify potential buyers if property is in the FEMA-identified floodplain. They contend there are regulations already in place for the “buyer beware.” 

The ordinance received the first of three necessary votes last week before becoming the law and it was a close vote, 6-5. 

Council members Alice Howard, York Glover, Gerald Dawson, Paul Sommerville, Larry McElynn voted in support of the ordinance; Members Brian Flewelling, Mark Lawson, Logan Cunningham, Stu Rodman, and Chris Hervochon opposed. Chairman Joe Passiment broke the tie. 

Port Royal and Beaufort city councils are waiting to see how their county elected counterparts handle the issue. 

Fingers crossed they don’t get distracted by any hurricanes. 


County takes action on some retirees’ benefits 

BEAUFORT – July 1 was the start of the new fiscal year for most local governments, and Beaufort County’s relatively new Administrator Eric Greenway is trying to tie up some loose ends. 

The County Council is moving forward on finalizing its Comprehensive Plan update, Envision Beaufort County, and last month got a look at the long-awaited long-range facilities plan which surveyed 52 of the county’s 105 buildings for future needs. 

The Council also took action last week to deal with an issue that’s been “hanging fire” since 2015 when the Council voted to drop health benefits for county retirees because of the costs. 

Forty-five of those estimated 680 previously eligible retirees got their own lawyer and sued which resulted last year in the Council agreeing to pay them an approximate total of $700,000. 

This latest action agrees to pay employees who retired after May, 2016 a percentage based on their length of service and other factors. 

The individuals will be notified by letter and asked to accept the settlement. 


Pity the folks on North Street 

BEAUFORT – The quiet residential community around North Street, in the center of Beaufort, not far from downtown Bay Street, seems to be catching the brunt, right now, of the area’s infrastructure growth demands. 

Earlier in the summer, neighbors in the area also known as the West End, appealed to City Council as Dominion Energy began moving forward with plans to replace power poles and transmission lines. 

The new project is designed to improve the delivery of service from the northern reaches of the county, across Whale Branch and then Battery Creek, through the city and across Beaufort River to the growing populations of Lady’s Island and beyond. 

Now the Beaufort-Jasper Water and Sewer Authority has announced a project to replace major water lines through the neighborhood, running down the middle of North Street, to improve service to the city, Port Royal and Lady’s Island customers. 

The pipe line project will also close a stretch of the Spanish Moss Trail from North Street, across Battery Creek to Robert Smalls Parkway. 

Estimated schedule for the project is nine months, hurricanes notwithstanding. 

Amplification 

The county’s proposed long-range facilities and space study plans by Creech and Associations is now available for review on the county website under the Beaufort County Council agenda packages, special meeting 8–19 … all 549 pages. 

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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