By Jim Hicks
Lady’s Island was the first area of Beaufort County to implement the concept of Community Preservation zoning that was authorized by the 1997 Beaufort County Comprehensive Plan.
The rational for allowing certain areas that possessed unique qualities such as Lady’s Island, St. Helena and the Dale community to develop zoning that was specific to their community was to protect those unique qualities.
On Lady’s Island a committee of community representatives was formed and for over a year, on a weekly basis, held public and individual meetings with members of the community, property owners and business representatives.
From the information derived from these meetings and with the guidance of a Beaufort County Planning Department representative, the present day Lady’s Island Community Preservation zoning was developed and approved by County Council in 1999.
Following are examples of some of the types of zoning that were developed specifically for Lady’s Island with a specific purpose in mind.
• Expanded Home Business (the property along the four-lane portion of Sams Point Road). This zoning was designed to allow the existing homes in this area to be used for low intensity commercial businesses such as business offices and medical practices.
It has been a success in that many homes which were near the end of their practical life as rental units have been purchased, renovated and today serve commercial purposes.
• Professional Office District (non-residential property adjacent to Lady’s Island Drive). The capability of Lady’s Island Drive and the McTeer Bridge to handle traffic was a concern in 1999 at which time there were only two lanes on each of them.
In response to this concern, the Professional Office District zoning was designed to limit commercial development to those types businesses such as banks, churches and offices which would generate minimal traffic and traffic interruption.
Even though today Lady’s Island Drive has been widened to four lanes and another two-lane span added to the bridge, increased traffic volume and congestion continues to be a valid concern on this key corridor.
• Rural Business District (Property on the right side of Sea Island Parkway coming from Chowan Creek to Hayward Drive (Airport Tire) in the Eustis Community). This zoning was developed with the specific purpose of protecting or legalizing those businesses in the rural area which had existed prior to the adoption of the Comprehensive Plan and with its adoption were made nonconforming. It also established specific types of businesses that could be established in rural areas.
To date it has worked well, although with the arrival of the new Walmart the city of Beaufort is faced with the question of allowing “commercial creep” along Sea Island Parkway from the store to Chowan Creek.
Each of the above listed types of zoning was developed for Lady’s Island with a specific overall purpose in mind and to date has served the island well. The city of Beaufort does not have zoning which matches the characteristics of each of these unique types of zoning but in most cases does have a similar type of zoning which will hopefully ensure similar long term results in the event of future annexation.
Jim Hicks is the past chairman of the Beaufort County Planning Commission.