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Lolita Huckaby

LOWCOUNTRY LOWDOWN 

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Good news; Beaufort isn’t fastest growing city in the nation 

BEAUFORT – Did you catch the story last week from U.S. News and World Report that Myrtle Beach is THE fastest growing city in the nation for 2022-23? 

The Report based its announcement on the number of people moving into an area compared to the number moving out. The article did not say whether the residents of Myrtle Beach were pleased with the designation or distraught. 

Beaufort, Port Royal, Bluffton, nor any of the county’s five municipalities – not even Yemassee with its aggressive annexation policy – were on this Top 25 list. 

Spartanburg, home to BMW and other industrial complexes, was No. 11 and Charleston, our good old neighbor to the north that folks are fleeing for Beaufort, made No. 22. 

Think about that … fastest growing city in the nation. 

Beaufort is growing thanks to annexation 

BEAUFORT – The Beaufort-Port Royal Municipal Planning Commission last week quietly OK’d the annexation of a tiny, less-than-an-acre of Lady’s Island into the city of Beaufort, but no one said a thing. 

Pending approval by the City Council, the city municipal limits will expand to include what is now the Zippy Lube and an abandoned car wash on Sea Island Parkway. No plans have been announced for what new development, if any, will be coming there. 

There WAS plenty said during another annexation item on the MPC agenda, when a small, .32 acre parcel on Polk Street, right behind Chick-fil-A, came up for discussion. 

Polk Village residents turned out in force to express their objections to what they perceived as the old “camel sticking its nose under the tent” move. In other words, they view the annexation as an unwelcome expansion of the city limits into their neighborhood. 

They’re worried about the future for their property which they fear may change even more when the City Council moves forward with plans for a Boundary Street parallel which may go through their neighborhood, annexations or no annexations. 

Annexations are interesting political phenomena. In principal, when a property owner decides he wants his or her property in a certain jurisdiction, you’d think, sure, no big deal, it’s his, or her, property. But in reality, you know the annexation is being done because that property owner has plans for the property that may, or may not, be allowed under zoning regulations in the county, or vice versa, in the city (although annexations into the county, out of the city, are pretty rare.) 

Most people don’t pay attention to annexation issues until they wake up one morning to read, or hear, that a multi-story apartment building is going up next to their single-family neighborhood. 

“How did that happen?” the neighbor might ask. 

“Don’t you remember, the city annexed that property two or three years ago and now the owner wants to get more money for his property by building more buildings, which he, or she, can now do because of city zoning?” another neighbor might point out. 

That’s a very simplified explanation of what some of the Polk Village residents are concerned about. Annexations aren’t always bad, in most cases; they follow the city’s master plans for orderly growth and the delivery of services like police or fire protection. 

The petition for annexation, which the MPC reviewed last week and the City Council will consider in the coming weeks, involves the addition of more than 45 acres, scattered from Robert Smalls Parkway to Polk Village to Greenlawn Street to Lady’s Island. The petition includes 26 different parcels. 

Owners of only two of those parcels didn’t sign the petition for annexation so that means, under the law, the city can annex them anyway because 75 percent of property owners listed on the petition DO want to come into the city. 

Polk Village residents themselves are not citizens of the city; they live in the county, which means they can’t vote on the City Council members. The city’s annexation moves over the past decades have all been to take in commercially developed land or undeveloped land which could be developed with, say, new apartment complexes. 

Again, it’s an interesting process if you happen to be interested in growth issues, or what’s happening in your own back yard. 

It’s not necessarily an easy process to follow, although the city staff and the MPC members tried hard to answer the Polk Village citizens’ questions. And if it wasn’t for social media, like NextDoor, many of those citizens might not have known about the annexation request at all. 

For the record, the MP tabled a decision on the Polk Village annexation but approved all the rest. 

The ball is back in the City Council’s court. Stay tuned. 


S.C. election changes focus on early voting 

BEAUFORT – With the June 14 primaries looming, recent news that Gov. Henry McMaster signed new legislation dealing with election laws might have some folks scratching their heads. 

This comes as the national media focuses on Secretary of State races across the country which are being viewed as the front-line defense for democracy, if you’re a fan of fair elections. (Rest easy on this point, at least as you prepare to go to the polls in South Carolina. Secretary of State Mark Hammond is not up for election this year.) 

Turns out the new election law changes amazingly pushed through our General Assembly pretty much the last week of the session, aren’t really new. Guess it’s a blessing there was bi-partisan support or it too, could have ended up with hundreds of amendments, dooming it to failure like the Compassion Care Act. 

The changes basically reflect the same early voting process was used in 2020 elections, when the voters could cast their votes prior to Election Day because of concerns about COVID. 

The move was so popular the number of voters who cast absentee ballots, statewide, was greater than the number of voters who waited until Election Day. 

South Carolina voters no longer have to provide an excuse to cast ballots early. They still have to provide a voter registration card or a photo ID. 

The Palmetto State becomes the 45th state – not last again! – to allow early voting. 

So … early voting … Tuesday May 31 to Friday, June 10 … no excuses. 


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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