Lolita Huckaby

Lowcountry Lowdown


Out with the old: In with the new?

It’s a sure bet growth issues will still be with us

By Lolita Huckaby


Thank you, Libby Anderson.

The city’s former planning director went before the Beaufort-Port Royal Municipal Planning Commission last week to defend the plans she helped write and, as a citizen, is concerned about their enforcement.

The mild-mannered Anderson held her ground against three major development players – two Trasks and 303 Associates – in her request for action before it’s too late.

Anderson, who was certainly no stranger to the podium since she represented the city’s planning efforts for 23 years standing right there, specifically asked the Commission to recommend to the City Council text changes which would take certain plan approval from the staff and give citizen review boards more authority to weigh in on major development projects.

Her request was directed at the Boundary Street and Bladen Street overlay districts, where the city’s long-range development plans, in her opinion, have been violated, by staff approval on at least two occasions.

To support her argument she pointed to 706 Bladen Street, a residence that was constructed and then approved by the building department with an illegal front porch entrance that extends onto the public sidewalk.

The latest offense is the drive-thru on the new Chipotle restaurant in the Beaufort Plaza on Boundary Street. The drive-through lane runs parallel to Boundary which was prohibited in the Boundary Street Master Plan.

Paul Trask, who manages the Beaufort Plaza redevelopment, took issue with Anderson’s description of his project. Courtney Worrell, co-CEO of 303 Associates, also weighed in and said her development team liked the current review process and felt it provided a collaborative incentive for developers.

Graham Trask, who has his own battles with the county over his proposed Dunkin’ Donut project on Lady’s Island (which has a drive-through) and with the city over some of 303 Associates downtown projects, added his two-cents and suggested those pushing for the text amendments were “weaponizing the code,” “creating roadblocks” with “ulterior motives.”

He also suggested the request for changes was coming from groups dedicated to “stop drive-throughs.”

If that were the case, that horse is out of the barn. Drive-throughs are obviously proliferating in this community as they are across the country. Folks prefer not to get out of their cars.

The bigger issue, as Anderson and Jessie White of the Coastal Conservation League and eventually, a majority of the MPC commissioners, agreed is to get these text changes – and the other five or six dozen other text changes suggested by consultants reviewing the Beaufort Code, out in front of what’s gonna be a long list of issues facing a BRAND NEW city manager and a BRAND NEW planning director.

That’s right, for all those concerned about Beaufort’s development path in the last decade, there’s going to be a new city manager at the helm come January, when Bill Prokop retires.

And there’s going to be a new planning director (his actual title with be Community and Economic Development Director) coming on board from Colorado. Curt Freese, who currently serves as Berthoud, Colo. community development director but did work at one time as a zoning director with our neighbors to the north in Horry County, will be joining the ranks in January.

While there may be two new guys at the administrative helm, there’s going to be basically the same City Council – except for the one new member, Josh Scallate – making the ultimate decisions.

And as the MP Commissioners themselves noted, in voting 3 to 1, to move the suggested text amendments forward to the City Council for review, those two individuals are going to have their hands full. And those with financial irons in Beaufort’s development fire, they’re not going to stop while the city’s administrative leaders tackle a learning curve.

It’s really not unlike the situation over in Port Royal where citizens desirous of more restrictive tree protection, begged the town council earlier this month to impose new regulations to try and protect trees. Those citizens know the developments aren’t going to stop.

And they, like a lot of citizens who care about the future of this corner of the Lowcountry, know there’s too much at stake for inaction.

Pine Island correction

ST. HELENA – Last week it was stated in this column that no development plans for the proposed 500-acre property off Eddings Point Road have been presented to the county for review. In fact, a request for changes to the area’s Cultural Preservation Overlay District zoning to accommodate the development have been filed and are expected to go before the county Planning Commission the first week in January.

Developers want to remove the Pine Island property, which includes the historic St. Helenaville remains, from the CPO district since it prohibits gated communities and golf courses.

The Penn Center board of directors and the Coastal Conservation League have already filed objections to the change, noted the CPO regulations have been in place for more than 20 years. This year’s update of the county’s masterplan reaffirmed the CPO standards and recommended additional protections.

Lolita Huckaby Watson is a community volunteer and newspaper columnist. In her former role as a reporter with The Beaufort Gazette, The Savannah Morning News, Bluffton Today and Beaufort Today, she prided herself in trying to stay neutral and unbiased. As a columnist, these are her opinions. Her goal is to be factual but opinionated, based on her own observations. Feel free to contact her at bftbay@gmail.com.

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