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Save Beaufort County by demanding controlled growth

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To many (perhaps most?) residential citizens of Beaufort County, it should be becoming quite evident that our county is steadily becoming overdeveloped. It’s been in the works for a long time, but development here now seems feral.

The massive power poles and the tree butchering accommodating their power lines, the clear cutting of land for residential neighborhoods, big box stores and fast food drive-throughs, the horrendous traffic that accompanies all these “developments” on land and on our waterways, seems to be snow balling now.

As for being in a severe weather zone, if a person does not think what happened with Ian in Fort Myers Fla., this past year wouldn’t happen here, they need to think again: that’s kind of “la-la-land” thinking. It seems that instead of preparing for an inevitable, probable disaster, we are putting more civilians and buildings in harm’s way.

What I can’t figure out is why our public citizens cannot get through to our various governmental bureaucracies, agencies that are supposed to listen to what a seemingly majority of our citizens want. So much is being pushed through in residential and commercial land development, it seems we citizens are “late and a dollar short” with stopping what we don’t want in the first place.

I know we have access to development information from the county or city that is out there (somewhere) to cover their legal hurdles, but, in fairness to Joe-public, it is not easily found, understood, nor is it obviously transparent. There aren’t too many properly paid watch dog groups that help our citizenry to actually understand or foresee what’s happening with Beaufort County’s growth and development.

Thank God for our Historical Society, Open Land Trust, Lolita Huckaby, and our Coastal Conservation League; they all help us to understand what is going on with development within our county, along with the detriments and harm of overdevelopment on a vulnerable landscape.

Keeping tabs on what is presently happening with the development of Pine Island and St. Helenaville and properly understanding established master plans (for both Beaufort and Port Royal) can be mind-numbing.

And isn’t it something to hear our own governmental staff and pro-development lawyers praise rewriting established ordinances, insisting that the proposed new language (written by those same folks) is actually a more protective CPO than what already exists as a road block for them? That’s what used to be called “gobbledygook.”

Look, if you’ve been in Beaufort County for around 40 years, you know what I’m talking about because you know and remember what happened to Bluffton when Del Webb and Palmetto Bluff moved in. You also probably remember what Mount Pleasant, Folly Beach and Tybee Island looked like a couple decades back.

The fact that our “Lowcountry” has been “discovered” will now never go away, and the only way to save Beaufort’s charm is for citizens to start demanding controlled (new) growth.

I’ve thought about this issue for many years. I never supported developments like Sun City, developments that I thought harmed the well being of our county. I have come to the conclusion that the best method to establish controlled growth in the county would be to establish a continual, capped annual population growth of less than one percent. The county is at about 200,000 right now, this would allow slightly under 2000 new residencies per year and this translates into no more than 20,000 over a decade.

My thinking is that if you control what is moving in you can control what’s building out. Presently, it seems our policies are “build it and they will come.” If this area has become so popular why couldn’t there be a sort of lottery for folks that want to move here? I mean, that’s basically what’s happening with some of our National Parks because of overcrowding. People tolerate waiting decades to float down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon. Isn’t our Lowcountry environment just as important, vital and in need of protecting? Why can’t we vote on the issue of overpopulation in Beaufort County, our own home? Our marsh is arguably even more naturally fragile than the Grand Canyon.

I encourage and support organizations like the Coastal Conservation League as they try their best to keep our citizenry informed and help draft petitions to help guild county and state policies. I would also encourage neighborhoods to mobilize and communicate with each other, keeping friends and neighbors informed about what developments might be on the planning table near or within blocks of their homes.

We live in an age of easy-to-use, mass media communication and should continue our efforts with social activism through that media; have it work for us instead of simply passing along bad news. We need to start working together to help curb the ongoing threat of overdevelopment here in Beaufort County now, not later.

Our county will become even more unrecognizable as Yemassee and Jasper County now are starting to rumble with residential and commercial developments. As tourists flock in are we destined to become like Fort Myers or Myrtle Beach (think Margaritaville!)? It’s almost like becoming older: You look in the mirror and ask, where has the time gone and what has happened to me? Don’t a majority of Beaufortonians want to protect the quality of our future, our quality of living?

We need to elect and hire administrators that enforce that quality of life, insisting that they represent and work toward what the majority of their citizenry want. Do we really want even more high-density “communities” along with national fast food chains and box stores? I believe the majority of our citizenry does not, and it would be nice to know for sure through voting on a sensible plan that actually controls growth in Beaufort County.

Tim and Kristy Wood moved to Beaufort in 1974. He worked as a carpenter in both restoration and new home construction, as well as operating a shop specializing in custom woodwork, Wood on Wood Specs. He is semi-retired, involved with fine woodworking and formerly sat on the City of Beaufort Zoning Board of Appeals.

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