LOWCOUNTRY LOWDOWN

7 mins read

By LOLITA HUCKABY

In case your missed it… 

LADY’S ISLAND – You didn’t.

The open house scheduled for July 8 at Whitehall Park was canceled because of concerns about that darn old virus.

The open house was a follow-up sponsored by the Friends of Whitehall Park, the county and the Beaufort County Open Land Trust after the developer Sam Levin withdrew his latest subdivision plan from the Beaufort-Port Royal Metropolitan Planning Commission citing “misinformation” in the community about the project at the foot of the Woods Memorial Bridge.

Might have had something to do with the Sea Island Corridor Coalition calling it Levin’s “Magical Mystery Tour.”

Anyway, Levin promised to be back with his plans for the MPC review. And citizens concerned about what the project will look like, will too.

Speaking about missing

BEAUFORT – Let’s face it, the last four months of quarantine have tough for just about everybody.

And that includes school kids, who might initially have enjoyed a longer-than-usual “spring break,” but according to reports (OK, from the parents) are ready to go back. 

School officials did a Herculean job of keeping the students on tract with their studies, with some districts doing better than others.

According to a report last month from the state Department of Education, Beaufort County school system had the seventh highest number of students who couldn’t be accounted for. The report found 452 kindergarten through 12th-graders unaccounted, out of the approximate 22,000 enrolled in Beaufort County public schools.

That’s about the same percentage of unaccounted students statewide where approximately 16,000 students slipped through the cracks.

Those same officials are spending the summer trying to figure out what next, just like the rest of us.

Also missing

BEAUFORT – The city has lost another tourist attraction with the move last month of the Santa Elena History Center on Bay Street.

The center and its historic displays, opened in 2015 by the Santa Elena Foundation, moved south last month, combining forces with the Coastal Discovery Museum on Hilton Head Island.

The county owns the 19th-century building which was used as a federal courthouse from 1994 to 2012 and before that, the county courthouse. There’s been talk of some county offices being moved into the structure, but for now, the property owners – being we, the taxpayers – are soliciting proposals for future use of the historic structure.

At least there’s still the Beaufort Museum on Craven Street to visit.

Not missing

BEAUFORT – As The Island News reporter Mindy Lucas pointed out last week, the Metropolitan Planning Commission will be getting a presentation on flight activity from MCAS Beaufort representative on July 25.

The Commissioners asked for the presentation in response to complaints from citizens about the jet noise, particularly during evening hours.

MCAS officials attribute the increased noise to realignment of the major runway for repairs, expected to be completed by the end of the year.

But citizens, who are criticized for THEIR criticism of “the sound of freedom,” are concerned about the knowledge that the air station is scheduled to receive even more F-35’s in the future.

As Lucas reported, the facility is home now to 29 of the fighter jets and expected to house up to 88 by the mid-2020s.

In 2009, when local governments were being asked for their official input on the Department of Defense’s plans to locate the new strike fighter jets at Beaufort or Cherry Point, N.C., the City Council had a bit of hesitation before endorsing the plan. But when the Council questioned the impact, it quickly drew the ire of the economic development community which stressed the financial impact of the project.

The City Council gave their endorsement and MCAS got the jets.

Also still missing, affordable housing

BEAUFORT COUNTY – Affordable housing has been a major problem in Beaufort County for years, and it sure isn’t getting any easier.

Beaufort County officials, as well as their municipal counterparts, have been looking at increasingly dismal numbers and listening to warnings from various consultants for the past decade.

According to Zillow, which may be as good a source as any, the median home price in Beaufort County is $328,000 while the median rent is $1,700.

It was a year ago that county and municipal councils of Beaufort and Jasper passed resolutions to work together to at least hire a consultant to help start a regional housing trust fund. The goal is to establish a plan for collecting money, along with grants, etc. to help build cheaper housing or help folks who need help renting.

Eric Greenway, county planning director who’s been busy trying to direct development on isolated Bay Point Island, told the County Council’s Natural Resources Committee on Monday the advertising for someone to take the lead on the housing trust hasn’t been successful – only one person was interested and he/she didn’t qualify.

But he assured the committee, “we’re focused on getting the job done.”

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.

 

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