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Zoning Board grants Stewart and Co. variance

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3-story apartment building at Charles, Port Republic streets a step closer to reality

Above: Artist’s rendering of proposed apartment building

By Lolita Huckaby

Monday night’s meeting of the City of Beaufort Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBOA) involved the same arguments we’ve heard before against a proposed three-story apartment complex on the corner of Charles and Port Republic Streets, but developer Dick Stewart and 303 Associates still got what they wanted.

The development company was before the board looking for a building code variance because the proposed 27,500 square foot structure exceeds the 100-foot linear frontage along Port Republic Street by approximately 30 feet.

The area where Dick Stewart of 303 Associates wants to build a multi-use building, which, if approved will be the largest building in the City of Beaufort. Photo by Bob Sofaly

While the city planning staff recommended the variance, downtown property owner Graham Trask, representatives of the Historic Beaufort Foundation and concerned citizens led the arguments against approval, contending the request for a variance should be based on special exceptions “not because you want it,” as one speaker said.

ZBOA Chairman Josh Gibson agreed with their arguments and made an unsuccessful motion to deny the request. It was followed with a motion by board member Kenneth Hoffman to grant the variance. Hoffman was joined by fellow board members Kevin Blank and Marc Sviland.

Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman Josh Gibson makes his point with attorney Walter Nester representing developor Dick Stewart and 303 Associates. Photo by Bob Sofaly

But the path to city approval is not yet at its end. The Historic Review Board (HRB), which gave the project preliminary approval in March, will review the proposal again at its September meeting where the developer hopes to get final approval for construction.

Of course, the HRB, which approved the project in March, is not the same HRB. Four of its five members have since been replaced by the City Council.

Walter J. Nester, III, a lawyer with Burr & Forman representing developer Dick Stewart and 303 Associates, makes a point during the Zoning Board of Appeals meeting. Photo by Bob Sofaly

The apartment building, dubbed the Cannon Building, which was before the zoning board Monday night, proposes 2,200 square feet of ground floor retail/commercial space with 19 two-bedroom apartments. Representatives of the developer describe the residences as designed for those working in the downtown area.

The 27 parking spaces required by code for the apartments will be provided across Port Republic Street in the 400-space parking garage also planned by 303 Associates and Beaufort Inn.

Approvals of the parking garage on Craven Street and a four-story hotel planned on the corner of Port Republic and Scott streets have been challenged in court by Trask, who included the City of Beaufort as a defendant in the lawsuit.

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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