Dunkin Donuts just latest of development pains
BEAUFORT – Last week’s county Zoning Board of Appeals meeting was painful.
First, you have large group of citizens who care passionately about the outcome of the board’s decision on a proposed drive-through Dunkin Donuts building along Lady’s Island’s busiest traffic corridor.
It’s the latest development project to generate controversy since residents still were able to express their opinions to a regulatory board appointed to, among other things, have a public hearing on the matter.
We have a business man who wants to build a new fast-food franchise in a spot where obviously thousands are going to pass by on a daily basis and many will want to pull for a cup of coffee to go and a calorie-laden pastry treat.
It was made a little more painful because that particular businessman had become something of a local hero to those who were fighting the battle against 303 Associates across the Beaufort River with plans for a couple of multi-story buildings in the downtown area. Said hero is now proposing a controversial project of his own right there off Sea Island Parkway on Lady’s Island.
For the sixth time, the Dunkin Donuts project was before the citizens appeals board, asking for a variance which would allow construction right across the street from the entrance to Bill’s Liquors and Grayco.
Permission was finally denied, on a 4-2 vote by the board, as the majority felt the project was not in keeping with the official development plan for the rapidly growing Lady’s Island Village area.
The county planning staff reversed its position on the project, first recommending approval and then, deciding it did not comply with the development plan’s focus on safe traffic patterns.
In fact, the county staff is in the process of pushing a change to the development code through County Council which would require drive-through facilities on major roads to have secondary access points to relieve traffic congestion. Obviously a good suggestion, but it can’t impact this Dunkin Donuts project since it’s already in the permitting process.
Possibly because of the staff reversal, the donut shop might not be dead. The owner has the option of “lawyering up” and appealing the issue in court, just like the rejection by this same appeals board involving Bay Point Island has been sitting in court, under appeal for more than a year.
Bay Point Island – that was another project of painful passion. Hundreds followed that proposal with fingers crossed that a resort community would not be allowed on that fragile barrier island.
Concerned citizens still have their fingers crossed, and while the Lowcountry continues to be developed, the process of passionate finger-crossing is painful. A lot of people seem just tired of the whole development fight and have conceded.
But passion is a good thing. We’re seeing that played out on our international news every day – the Ukrainian people care passionately about their country and are willing to fight for it.
We haven’t taken up arms yet, or turned to making homemade Molotov cocktails, even though forested areas are being cleared and roadways are getting more congested with new residents moving to the Lowcountry.
More and more, you hear the term “building moratorium” while the county and city figure out a possible traffic solution and how to fund it.
Moratoriums are a painful topic for community elected officials and not one that’s likely to get any traction.
Some folks have accepted the inevitability of living in a beautiful, popular place that attracts more and more residents. Some have figured out ways to make money off this popularity. Others are just packing their bags and looking for another home.
Carolina Squats prohibition out-pacing medical marijuana
COLUMBIA – While state Sen. Tom Davis’ Compassionate Care Act, aka the “medical marijuana” bill, passed the Senate two weeks ago after seven years of work on his part and three weeks of discussion by his colleagues, it appears the state House will be an even harder sale.
“Sale” might not be the right word; word is the House leadership is just going to let it sit in committee until the May 12 adjournment date, which means it will be DEAD and supporters will have to begin the approval process all over again next session.
In other words, the Palmetto State will continue to be one of the 13 states in the U.S. that does not allow some sort of legalized medical cannabis relief to patients who need it.
On the other hand, legislation to outlaw “Carolina Squats” or those ridiculously jacked-up truck modifications is sailing smoothly along, passing the same Senate last week by a 33-1 vote with the enthusiastic support of the law enforcement community.
If you’re the least bit interested, you can monitor how H-4574, the Carolina Squats bill, does against Davis Compassionate Care Act, H-3361, check it out on the legislative websites.
For the record, Reps. Weston Newton and Herb Herbkersman are signed on as sponsors. Rep. Shannon Erickson said she’s supported the bill in the past but has to review the current version.
Yay for BIFF in a town with no theater
BEAUFORT – Hat’s off to the 16th edition of the Beaufort International Film Festival.
The six-day tribute to the glory of film and film-makers concluded Sunday and community feedback indicates this year’s event was a big hit.
It’s interesting to note how some locals didn’t even realize it was BIFF week despite all the hype, preoccupied with their own lives and enterprises.
But the organizers were optimistic that their predictions of 10,000 attendees were met, a tribute not only to the great viewing opportunities but a desire by many to just “get out” after two years of Covid-induced hibernation.
The festival, for those few who might not be aware of it, was started by locals Ron and Rebecca Tucker who wanted to promote the area as potential film production locations. Since the shooting of The Stars Fell On Alabama in 2019, movie crews have been pretty scarce around Beaufort.
Just like movie theater options. Since the Plaza Theater was closed in 2019 to make way for a new Publix, the community’s movie-loving citizens have had to travel to the nearest theater in Bluffton or rely on USCB’s Center for the Arts’ Bonnie Hargrove’s efforts to bring independent films back on a weekly schedule.
We’re blessed to have one of the few drive-in theaters in the state — yay for the folks at Hwy. 21 Drive In — but those efforts are in competition for folks who just opt to stay home, sit on their couches and enjoy the movie-watching experience alone.
Sorry, but it’s just not the same.
It’s not the Monday Night movies, but County Council trying to provide a draw
HILTON HEAD ISLAND – And speaking of going somewhere for entertainment, Beaufort County Council’s Monday meeting didn’t exactly play to a standing-room-only crowd.
Council members decided last month to take their meetings “on the road,” so to speak, so citizens and taxpayers who pay their salaries could see them in action.
Monday night’s meeting at the Hilton Head High School drew fewer than a dozen spectators, not counting the staff members who had to travel there. The work session, which began earlier, drew only one “outsider.”
The council tried this on-the-road schedule several years ago but gave it up after deciding it was way too much trouble compared to the attendance.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.