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Wednesday, April 23, 2014 articles (index)
Editorial: Civic Master Plan at center of debacle–Majority of council members oppose rezoning downtown waterfront parkland

Editorial: Civic Master Plan at center of debacle

Majority of council members oppose rezoning downtown waterfront parkland

Mayor Billy Keyserling: “My view is not to move forward with any consideration of rezoning until we have a very clear understanding of the process.”

Councilman Mike Sutton: “I do not support the zoning change.”

Councilman George O’Kelley: “I have been opposed to this rezoning from the beginning and I always will oppose it.”

With these three announcements at the opening of last evening’s public work session at city hall, a majority of the members of city council stated to the assembled concerned citizenry that the Navarro/Chaffin/Verity proposal is essentially dead.

That proposal, if achieved via rezoning of the land and a lease or sale of it to the developers, would effectively destroy 4.2 acres of the downtown waterfront public parkland in favor of private core-commercial development. “We have listened to the thousands of people not only in Beaufort but from around the world who do not want this development,” one of the council members said.

The “process” referred to by Mayor Billy Keyserling is the city’s Civic Master Plan, adopted after much ado on February 11, 2014. A cursory look at the plan reveals that its lofty first principle describes “a future for Beaufort that celebrates the waterfront and how the city connects to the Beaufort River and environment” yet recommends taking the core of the downtown public waterfront and converting it into a high-density core-commercial private development.

The first principal of the plan–enhance public downtown waterfront access and views–is thus totally undermined by the first action recommended by the plan–destroy the downtown waterfront parkland and convert it into core-commercial buildings that will destroy the public access and views.

How did this happen? That is what Mayor Billy Keyserling was saying when he announced last evening that he is opposed to moving forward with any consideration of rezoning “until we have a very clear understanding of the process.”

That process involved the hiring by the city of a company called Lawrence Group at a cost of approximately $1,000,000. How could the city spend that much money and get a plan that recommends an implementation strategy diametrically opposed to its fundamental premise?

We salute Mayor Keyserling and the other members of city council who say they will get to the bottom of this. Meanwhile, it appears that nothing is going to happen any time soon to threaten with rezoning the open space and waterfront views of the downtown waterfront parking lot.

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