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Tuesday, January 14, 2014 articles (index)
Statement of Historic Beaufort Foundation to Planning Commission

Statement of Historic Beaufort Foundation to Planning Commission

The following is the statement presented by Maxine Lutz, executive director of Historic Beaufort Foundation, to the Metropolitan Planning Commission at last evening’s meeting, January 13, 2014:

January 13, 2014

To: Members of the Metropolitan Planning Commission
From: Historic Beaufort Foundation

On Friday, January 3rd, 2014, and January 9th, 2014, the City notified nearby property owners with a proposed zoning change that would affect the Waterfront Park Marina Parking Lot area and parcels within the blocks bounded by Craven Street, Church Street, Bay Street and Charles Street.

Historic Beaufort Foundation strongly urges the Commission to delay consideration of these proposed zoning changes until the following occurs:
Approval of the Civic Master Plan
Approval of Specific Proposals for these parcels under the new Form-based Code
Receipt of a conceptual plan for development of the Marina Parking Lot
Evaluation of the potential legal constructs to developing publicly-owned property, and
The appropriate and required process followed for vetting by the public.

The Foundation believes that the public has not had sufficient opportunity to address rezoning. The first legal notice of the proposed rezoning appeared today, January 13th, 21014, in local media.

The proposed zoning change is the incremental implementation of proposals that have not had a formal public hearing before City Council, nor have they been approved. Quoting from the January 9th, 2014, letter from the City Planning Director proposing the zoning changes, “Finally, we have reviewed an early draft of the future ‘regulating plan’ (new zoning map), that will accompany the proposed form-based code (new Zoning ordinance) and determined that in certain locations, Neighborhood Commercial Zoning may be more consistent with the future zoning map than a Core Commercial designation.”

The proposed zoning change to Core Commercial for most of these parcels eliminates the need for off-street parking to be included in any development proposals. The City’s parking issue needs to be resolved with an appropriate executable plan prior to any rezoning consideration. The potential developers of the marina have stated that any proposals they make will serve as a catalyst to define the parking solution to downtown.

Significant potential issues exist related to the rezoning from Conservation Preservation to Core Commercial of the Marina parking lot, which includes Freedom Park on which a Memorandum of Understanding exists with the Open Land Trust precluding development, and separately Secession Park, owned by the City on the corner of Craven and Church Streets. It has come to our attention that there are legal attachments to both Freedom Mall and Secession Park that would prohibit their being rezoned from Conservation Preservation and may even affect City’s ownership of the parcel. We understand that when the City received a $30 million grant from the Dept. of the Interior to develop the Waterfront Park, including Freedom Mall, a stipulation was attached that the City would not develop the area that comprises the parking lot. Prudence requires all of these legal covenants and stipulations be reviewed and vetted prior to consideration of any proposed zoning changes. The issue of conversion of City parks through lease or sale to private developers needs to be resolved in a thoroughly vetted public process.

It is our understanding that Keyserling Enterprises owns one of the parcels under consideration for rezoning. A thorough vetting and disclosure of Mayor Keyserling’s past, present, or future interest in this parcel should also be examined.

For all these reasons, we believe for all these reasons that it is entirely reasonable to delay consideration of these zoning changes until other information is obtained.

cc: Members of Beaufort City Council

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