Lolita Huckaby

Lowcountry Lowdown


By Lolita Huckaby

Anyone keeping track of how many “tourists’ become new residents?

BEAUFORT – In case you missed it somehow, there was an international film festival in town this past weekend plus South Carolina’s first-of-the-season sanctioned barbecue competition which drew hundreds to the streets of Port Royal.

The Beaufort International Film Festival, which was celebrating its’ 17th year brought filmmakers and film lovers from all over the nation plus representation from five different countries. The annual Bands, Brews & BBQ, celebrating its 13th year, is a fundraiser for the nonprofit Friends of Caroline Hospice,

The two attracted diverse crowds and it’s difficult to determine which drew more “out of towners.”

But regardless of where they came from, the number of people who showed up, as with the other community festivals, increased the number of those who fell in love with the place and now want to move here.

Another reason why real estate companies and financial institutes are such big supporters of such attractions, bless their hearts.

Town retreat includes reminder of future growth

PORT ROYAL – The Port Royal Town Council spent part of their weekend “retreating” into the local fire station to talk about the future and how to attack next year’s budget.

Planning Director Noah Krepps set the tone for the two-day session by reminding the elected officials there are already at least 1,600 new residential units “in the pipeline,” aka, permitted but not yet under construction.

That doesn’t include the changes that are eventually expected on the Safe Harbor property which are still in design stages. Initial plans for that property includes a 250-slip marina plus up to 575 homes and townhouses along the two mile waterfront property.

The town council is also getting glimpses of proposed renovations along the Ribaut Road section through the town which are also under study by the town.

Residents are still waiting to hear how the proposed tree protection ordinance will be approved once the council meets later this month.

Bring on the ‘Yankee tax’

COLUMBIA – Just a brief reminder the S.C. General Assembly is still in session and those elected officials are coming up with all kind of interesting new ideas to raise money.

One of the latest is being called a “Yankee tax” although the sponsors are quick to point out it’s a “fee,” not a “tax” and it’s aimed at all incoming residents, not just “Yankees.”

Senate Bill 208, which has made it out of a subcommittee into full committee, proposes an additional $250 fee on driver’s licenses plus an additional $250 licensing and registration vehicle fee for out-of-state residents moving here. The additional revenue could be used for road repairs – say no more! – or green space – always a winner here in Beaufort County!

One caveat: as written, the bill allows county councils to hold referendums on whether the new fees will be passed or just pass it by ordinance.

If the legislation does pass – and who knows what the chances of that are – it will be interesting to see how Beaufort County Council would respond.

The Council is in the process of giving third and final approval to a long-debated development impact fee schedule which will be added to new residential and non-residential construction. The fees will be used for fire protection, parks and recreation projects, new libraries and transportation. The impact fees have been discussed for more than a decade with the largest hold-up being the municipalities and the county being on the same page.

That agreement appears to have been reached and the most recent price tag – for the “average new homeowner” which varies from location, size of home, number of residents, etc. was estimated at one point to be a monthly increase of $100 on one’s mortgage.

The county’s proposal initially included school impact fees. In fact, a school impact fee was enacted in 2021 but then abolished a year later when the majority of County Council felt like the school board wasn’t supporting their efforts.

School impact fees are not on the proverbial table at the present.

Banning books comes with a cost

BEAUFORT – We now know the dollar cost of the on-going debate before the Board of Education about “controversial” books on school library shelves.

Thanks to a report in The Beaufort Gazette the cost of buying copies of the 97 books being reviewed by citizen-teacher committees plus sheriff’s deputies who monitor the review meetings is close to $8,500. That’s money that otherwise would be spent on supplies or teachers’ salaries.

Since the process of reviewing books began in October, when individuals concerned about the appropriateness of certain library books came to the school board with their complaints, the review committees have met and discussed 26 of the 97. Of that number, the school board agreed with the committee recommendations to return all but two of the 26 to the shelves.

Local landmarks aren’t only buildings razed to make way for hotels

BEAUFORT – The county seat isn’t the only Lowcountry municipality seeing buildings demolished to make way for visitors.

The city of Charleston’s review board last week gave final approval to developers to knock down part of the historic Rainbow Market Shops property on North Market Street to make way for a hotel project.

While the façade, which faces the City Market, is to be incorporated into the rest of the hotel’s design, according to a report in The Post and Courier, the majority of the structure was built before the 1886 earthquake and rebuilt around 1905.

Clearing the old to make way for the new… Sound familiar?

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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