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Lolita Huckaby

Lowcountry Lowdown

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By Lolita Huckaby
The Island News

Nothing to do in Beaufort? We beg to differ

BEAUFORT – So, who says there’s nothing to do in this little, laid-back community?

We may not have a nationally (dare we say internationally) “famous” murder trial starting up this week, like the one 45 minutes up the road in Walterboro. The trial is projected to bring in hundreds of media-types and legal beagles, not to mention the curious who will show up, if for nothing else than to check out the food trucks.

(And kudos there to fellow WJWJ-ETV veteran and Beaufort County Channel Director Scott Grooms who left the county in September after 15 years to serve as Tourism Manager for the Colleton County seat. Just in time to handle what is being billed a “media circus,” as high-profile court cases often are. Good luck, Scott.)

But back to this part of the Lowcountry, where the weekend’s weather – at least Saturday – prompted folks to get up off their couches and check out their social calendars. We may not have a local movie theater or a bowling alley as some folks like to complain about when they get to talk about what we DON’T have, but we do have things going on, not to mention our beaches and waterways.

Thanks to the Beaufort Hospitality Association, we had what appears to be a successful third annual Oyster Festival, just the thing for a wintery-like Saturday in the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park.

Thanks to Bonnie Hargrove and the folks at USCB’s Center for the Arts, the facility’s new renovations were on display as part of the Historic Beaufort Foundation’s history lecture series, the local chamber music concert on Sunday and kickoff for the Friends of the Library’s Books-Sandwiched-In program on Monday.

No wonder Beaufort’s been tagged as Best Little Town for 2022 by Southern Living magazine and the Friendliest Town in America by TheTravel.com website.

Or maybe it’s because the natives just wave at visitors too often.

Don’t talk to us about drive-throughs

BEAUFORT – Beaufort may be considered a “friendly town” but not necessarily when it comes to drive-throughs.

What seemed like a simple question before the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals this week – whether a new bank could have a drive-thru lane running parallel to Robert Smalls Parkway – evolved into an interesting debate on the “city’s” support of economic development.

South Atlantic Bank’s plans for a new branch building in the Beaufort Plaza were being appealed after the city planning staff under the direction of interim director Riccardo Giani, rejected its plans for the drive-through fronting the busy four-lane parkway.

The bank’s attorney argued the new Chipotle restaurant, at the other end of the renovated plaza, got approval for their drive-through as did the infamous Chic-fil-A drive-through disaster across Boundary Street.

The issue of Chipotle’s drive-through, which runs parallel to Boundary Street, was brought up earlier this month at another planning meeting by former city planning director Libby Anderson, who encouraged enforcement of existing development guidelines.

She pointed out the new Wendy’s on Boundary Street and the one on Lady’s Island complied with city masterplan designs with drive-through away from major thoroughfares.

The city’s new planning director Curt Freese who began work earlier this month even stepped into the appeal cautioning the board to focus on existing development regulations. If you don’t like a regulation, he reminded those present, it’s up to the City Council to change it.

In a rather confusing little play, the board members agreed, on a vote of three with two abstentions, to support the current staff’s decision to reject the plans based on the drive-through. But then they turned around and voted to approve the bank’s request for a variance to allow approval … with the requested drive-through.

Local developer Graham Trask who has had his own battle with the county about a doughnut shop on Lady’s Island – with a proposed drive-through, spoke in favor of the bank project as did a couple of others as well as Ian Scott of the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce who felt the appeals board, aka “the city” wasn’t being “business friendly.”

No mention was made about the future of the existing Ameris Bank with its own drive-through facility behind the building at the other end of Beaufort Plaza.

Jessie White, with the Coastal Conservation League, assured those critics the concerns on issues like drive-throughs adjacent to busy thoroughfares and pedestrian safety were based on the desire for good, balanced development. The new bank, which already has an office space on the Parkway, is most certainly welcome, without a drive-through in the front.

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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