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LOWCOUNTRY LOWDOWN

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So you thought 2022 was going to be a new year?

New calendar year means new starts, right? If only that was true.

City of Beaufort officials had hoped to start 2022 with an updated Comprehensive Plan on the books, a plan to help guide development in the coming 10 to 20 years.

The County Council has adopted its plan, so has the Port Royal Town Council. Not so for the city.

The City Council has to give two votes on the proposed document before it becomes law. But because a number of questions were raised about the plan since it was first presented in July, the Municipal Planning Commission spent almost half-dozen hours last month reviewing the proposals and making suggestions.

So instead of giving the first vote of approval at the Dec. 14 Council meeting as scheduled, the plan is still before MPC for review and recommendations before it goes to City Council.

That might happen next week, at the Jan.11 City Council meeting but the Council has other left-over issues to deal.

For example there’s a new negative perception of the whole planning process which popped up during the holidays with news the Community and Economic Development Director David Prichard’s wife is now an employee of 303 Associates, Dick Stewart’s development firm which has big plans for the city and is involved in at least three lawsuits involving the city.

The word “perception” is coming up a lot after 303 Associates posted pictures of its Christmas party on Facebook and there was Prichard and his wife, Vanessa, who works as a leasing agent for 303.

A spokesman for the S.C. Municipal Association told the Beaufort Gazette her employment was not necessarily a conflict since the couple did not benefit directly from her job as leasing agent with the company.

And while Mayor Stephen Murray and Prichard himself admitted they had “concern” about the perception issue, it remains to be seen if the “perception” will be trouble.

Redistricting, aka gerrymandering still on the table in Columbia

COLUMBIA – Another leftover piece of business hanging over the elected folks in Columbia is also drawing criticisms about “perception” – redistricting, or as the opponents are calling it, “obvious gerrymandering.”

The same was said about the local effort to redraw the 11 County Council/Board of Education seats to reflect the 2020 census information. But the majority party gets to make the rules, draw the lines and although court cases are being filed all over the country challenging redistricting efforts, it looks like the voters have to live with what is drawn.

The latest rumble in Columbia came just last week when the state House redistricting committee presented another version for the seven Congressional seats, one that specifically changed Beaufort County to remain in 1st District Congresswoman Nancy Mace’s territory instead of looping the county into Congressman Joe Wilson’s 2nd District.

A report in the Charleston Post and Courier of the panel discussion quoted the chairman of the seven-member group (4 Republicans, 3 Democrats) as saying “the panel will either upset Beaufort County voters or people in Charleston County.”

A representative of the S.C. League of Women Voters, which has been monitoring the redistricting process, was also quoted as saying “if the question comes down to whether it’s important to keep Charleston County together or carve it up to keep Beaufort County in the 1st District, the answer is obvious.”

So, how do you feel about ‘Carolina Squats?’

COLUMBIA – One interesting bill that’s been presented for the folks in Columbia to tackle once they go back to work later this month is a bill aimed at limiting “Carolina Squats.”

For the uninformed, these are vehicles whose front ends have been elevated for … looks?

Actually, three bills have been introduced by members of the House and Senate who says the altered trucks create a safety hazard, making it difficult for drivers to see over the vehicle hoods.

The legislation is bound to draw comments from those who consider it a personal right to trick out their vehicles the way they want to. Law enforcement agencies are lining up in favor of the restriction.

Once again, it’s going to be a matter of perception.

No question about need for traffic solutions

LADY’S ISLAND – It certainly cannot be a matter of perception when it comes to local traffic congestion and the need for something to be done.

The question, of course, is what to do and how to pay for it.

Beaufort County transportation planners begin a new year continuing to work with consultants and the S.C. Department of Transportation on long-range plans to improve the situation on Lady’s Island.

In the meantime, several traffic accidents during the holidays highlighted that need.

– A four-car collision near the entrance to the island Walmart on Dec. 30 tied up traffic for about two hours. Luckily no one reportedly was injured.

– A two-truck collision east of the Chowan Creek Bridge on the Dec. 23 blocked traffic for about three hours. The two drivers were taken to Beaufort Memorial for treatment.

In both cases, there were no alternative routes for motorists to leave the outer sea islands – St. Helena, Dataw, Harbor, Fripp.

Hilton Head Island motorists face these kinds of traffic tie-ups all the time, often with serious injury or fatalities. Bluffton is seeing more and more accidents as the community grows. Same with the cities of Beaufort and Port Royal.

Just wait until we get that Dunkin’ Donuts.

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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