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Lowcountry Lowdown

6 mins read

Happy Birthday, Beaufort! 

BEAUFORT – So what do you get to celebrate a 311th birthday? 

Mayor Stephen Murray shed a bit of light on the event this week during his presentation at the inaugural 2022 Friends of the Beaufort Library Book Sandwiched In. (If you didn’t get to attend, you can watch it on the Friends’ Facebook.) 

Murray reviewed the book Strong Towns: A Bottom-Up Revolution to Rebuild American Prosperity by Minnesota land-use planner and author Charles Marohn, Jr. who contends local governments need to focus more on being financially resilient rather than trying to be “all things to all citizens.” 

Murray, who’s been mayor 13 months with 35 more to go, conceded the author didn’t provide complete solutions, just like he (Murray) acknowledged he doesn’t have all the solutions but made it clear he spends a lot of time thinking about it. 

For those new to the area, or unaware of the city’s accomplishments, Murray pointed to the Commerce Park, located north of the city and home now to nine industrial operations with construction of a new 64,000 square foot spec building underway. He listed the city’s Digital Corridor, a business incubator located on Carteret Street open to technical entrepreneurs looking for start-up space. 

Then there are the city’s efforts, along with economic development folks, USC Beaufort, Technical College of the Lowcountry and the U.S. Department and Defense on the new South Coast Cyber Center. The cyber-security training facility, to be located in the former Bridges Prep School building on Boundary Street, aka the old Boys and Girls Club, aka the old Yankee bar, got a recent boost with a $450,000 grant for scholarships. 

In other words, Murray is working with other community leaders to help expand the city’s future past a tourist destination and home for retirees.

They’re hoping their efforts could be considered a birthday present that’s going to appreciate in value, like a young tree can provide future shade.

Ethics opinion, design review board ruling upheld; appeals to follow

BEAUFORT – Some might consider it a double win for the city last week when first an employee in the state Ethics Commission and then a District Court judge issued opinions favoring the city.

On Tuesday, the Ethics Commission, responding to a request from the city attorney, agreed there was a perception of conflict with planning director David Prichard handling 303 Associates’ development projects since his wife worked there. City officials had expressed concern about the perception such an arrangement existed although Prichard pointed out his wife worked in an area of the company’s non-development activities.

The Commission suggested Prichard recuse himself from any 303 projects.

On Wednesday, 9th District Circuit Court Judge Bentley Price of Charleston ruled in favor of the city in a case brought by the Historic Beaufort Foundation and property owner Graham Trask who contend the city’s Review Board improperly granted approval to the 303 Associates’ for a parking garage and hotel on the corner of Scott and Port Republic streets.

Judge Price, who quickly made his ruling following an hour-long hearing from the four different attorneys, had earlier in the week been appointed to oversee future court proceedings involving Alex Murdaugh and charges against him from the family of the late Gloria Satterfield.

For those taking bets on when groundbreaking will begin on 303 Associates’ long-awaited, much debated parking garage, HBF and Trask have said appeals to this latest ruling will be filed.

That appeal will join their other appeal against the city Zoning Board of Appeals for its approval of 303’s Cannon Building, the three-story retail/apartment complex planned for the corner of Port Republic and Charles Street.

Hold onto your hats, they’re back in session

COLUMBIA – The state Legislature goes back into session this week and observers say it will be an interesting time with some $6 billion in additional money to spend from federal sources like the American Recovery Plan.

Even before the elected officials get back into the seats, Gov. McMaster has released his plan for tax cuts and highway repairs. (This IS an election year.)

Observers are also hopeful Sen. Tom Davis’ bill for a medical marijuana law will pass. Of course, that was the hope last year.

Harris Teeter update

LADY’S ISLAND – There is none.

Spokeswoman for the Matthews, N.C. grocery chain Paige Pauroso says they have nothing “publicly to share” about their plans for a new grocery on the corner of Sams Point Road and Sea Island Parkway. The company has the design permits they need from the city so that’s not holding up construction.

Pauroso can be reached at ppauroso@harristeeter.com. Let me know if she tells you anything.

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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