Lowcountry Lowdown

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Infrastructure: Federal bill aside, local projects need to be paid for

BEAUFORT – It was a bit ironic that Monday, at 3 p.m., as President Joe Biden was signing the much-debated $1 trillion infrastructure bill into law, Beaufort County’s transportation projects director was reminding the County Council’s Public Works Committee about the long list of local projects that need funding.

With the local option sales tax rejected by voters earlier this month, county officials know they’re going to need extra dollars to pay for the road, sidewalk, bridge, boat landing, and etc. improvements on their wish list.

And – don’t be surprised – they’re already talking about another one-cent sales tax referendum, this one unlike the LOST in that it would have a specific time frame to raise needed dollars.

Best choice titles have their price

BEAUFORT – Well, Beaufort’s done it again. The city of Beaufort has made another top-10 list, this time with the USA TODAY’S Reader’s Choice Best Small Coastal Towns for 2021.

We’re ninth on the list, behind Georgetown, S.C. which is second; Southport, N.C. (near Wilmington) and Nags Head, N.C.

Beaufort and other parts of the county, specifically Hilton Head Island, have made lots of top-10 lists in recent years, proving Rob Wells and his staff driving the Lowcountry tourism program are doing their jobs of wining and dining and showing off our area assets.

Tributes like the “smell of pluff mud, briny breezes and charming antebellum architecture” are noted in this most recent accolade.

“Winding historic roads lined with moss-draped live oak trees” is another common compliment – anyone mentioned that to Dominion Energy?

“Charming antebellum architecture?” Hope the design review boards keep that in mind when asked to approve projects that might alter those “charms.”

“Hidden South Carolina jewel,” … that’s how travel writers have described the place. Maybe that’s why so many of us want to protect that jewel from those who would change it, demolish its beauty.

City still plugging away on Comp Plan

BEAUFORT – If you happen to be keeping up with the push to get state-mandated comprehensive development plans in place by the end of the year, you’ll know that the County’s finished with ENVISION 2040, Port Royal’s giving first of two necessary readings to their new document and Beaufort, still in the talking stage.

In the general scheme of government activities, passage of comprensive development plans, as blueprints for a how a community is projected to grow, seems pretty mundane. A lot of time is spent by the professional planning staffs of county and municipal government to get the right words down on paper and then the citizen planning boards spend hours looking at how the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed.

All that time, development is taking place all around us, and the average citizen walks away wondering, “why bother?”

It’s a process, required by law if you’re going to have zoning, and if we didn’t have zoning, … well, that’s another question for another day.

Back to the timetable, despite COVID, which delayed public meetings to talk about the plans, the government entities have been pushing to get finished with these documents by the end of the year.

County? Got theirs done, with the help of outside consultants, at the same time the interim Planning Director Rob Merchant became the permanent man in charge.

Port Royal? Got theirs finished even with the departure of long-time planning director Linda Bridges and the arrival of new Director Noah Krepp, who had his hands full learning the ropes but has pushed the plan past first reading.

Beaufort City? David Prichard and his staff, plus some consultants, got off on the wrong foot with the S.C. Coastal Conservation League, Historic Beaufort Foundation, Open Land Trust and others who felt like the draft didn’t go nearly far enough to develop a realistic plan for good growth.

The Municipal Planning Commission spent two extra hours reviewing the city plan this week and will meet again next week to get their concerns on record. A first reading by the City Council is scheduled for Dec. 14 and whether the Dec. 31 deadline is met, … well, it’s close.

It’s not whether that “end of the year” deadline is met, it’s whether a blueprint is produced that will help with good development for the years to come. That’s a goal that goes way past the end-of-year deadline.

Follow-up on Bridges-to-Fishing Piers project

HILTON HEAD ISLAND – Turns out Hilton Head Island’s state representative Jeff Bradley likes the idea of a new fishing pier as part of the proposed new and improved U.S. 278 bridge project.

Bradley said last week he intends to pursue the idea, even if the S.C. Department of Transportation and others say it’s a “no go.”

Good luck to Bradley…maybe he’ll have some luck in providing additional recreational fishing opportunities.

Although County Administrator Eric Greenway said in a recent meeting with the County Council’s Public Works Committee, “please don’t ask us to come up with money to maintain it.”

It’s always the money.

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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