Will Cook & Graham Trask discuss their motives in notifying National Park Service about threats to National Historic Landmark District

Editor’s note: The following was published yesterday in the Sunday edition of The Beaufort Gazette/The Island Packet. The Beaufort Tribune is pleased to publish this same article today.

“Other Motives”

These two words, “Other Motives,” were utilized by the new mayor of the City of Beaufort, Stephen Murray, as quoted in Karl Puckett’s May 14th, 2021, article in the Beaufort Gazette/Island Packet, to describe the “intentions” of Will Cook and Graham Trask in alerting the National Park Service to the current threat facing the Beaufort Historic District, which was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1973, as well as the newly-created Reconstruction Era National Historical Park that is located within the Beaufort Historic District.

Mr. Murray, as you did not elucidate on our “other motives”, we would like to take this opportunity to clarify them for our fellow Beaufortonians. We also invite you to clarify what you meant by “other motives,” as we are quite sure that Mr. Puckett and the Beaufort Gazette/Island Packet, along with other notable local media outlets such as the Beaufort Tribune and The Island News, would appreciate an opportunity to print your feedback.

Our motives are:

  • A) The City of Beaufort’s Historic District Review Board (HDRB) has approved three massive infill structures – a 484+- parking garage located at 918 Craven Street; a 77+- corporate hotel located at 812 Port Republic Street; and a 24+- apartment/retail/office complex at 211 Charles Street.
    All are slated for construction by 303 Associates LLC/Beaufort Inn LLC within a 3-block area in
    the Beaufort Historic District. However, none of these massive structures has received a “special exemption” by the City of Beaufort Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBOA) as required by law. ZBOA approval must occur prior to initial consideration by the HDRB. To our knowledge, none of these three projects has applied for nor received a “special exemption” from the ZBOA. Yet, all have received either final or preliminary approval by the HDRB. Such approval does not comply with the letter or spirit of Beaufort’s historic preservation ordinance and places future maintenance of the Beaufort Historic Landmark District’s status unnecessarily in jeopardy.
  • B) If the City of Beaufort continues to authorize 303 Associates LLC/Beaufort Inn LLC to construct these massive structures, each structure individually and collectively will visually detract from the Beaufort Historic District’s small-scale atmosphere, context, and associations.
  • C) Mayor Murray, City Council, City Staff, and the HDRB all appear to have ignored their own City Code. We were left with no choice but to notify the National Park Service of the threats posed by the City’s actions. The National Park Service is the federal agency that approves and monitors National Historic Landmark Districts throughout the United States.
  • D) The National Park Service will only intervene in a situation, such as Beaufort’s, after gathering supporting evidence and holding discussions with organizations such as the South Carolina State Historic Preservation Office and the Beaufort Historic Foundation, among others. The National Park Service concluded that a threat exists deserving further investigation.
  • E) Our motives remain singularly focused on ensuring that growth within the Beaufort Historic District remains in keeping, balanced with, and respects Beaufort’s historic resources that citizens have fought for decades to protect and preserve for the benefit of current and future
    generations. Coincidentally, the Beaufort Historic District is the same district that the Beaufort City Code is designed to protect. Unless, as is currently the case, the code is not followed by the City itself.
  • F) It is unfortunate that outside intervention was required here by Beaufort natives and that calls for assistance from the National Park Service did not originate from the City itself.

So, Mr. Murray, we ask you what, in your opinion, are our “Other Motives”? We also ask you “what are your and the City’s Motives”?

Why doesn’t the City admit that the City of Beaufort Code has been violated?

Why drag the City of Beaufort staff and tax paying Beaufortonians into a legal battle defending past City of Beaufort mistakes?

Why bring unwanted attention to the City of Beaufort by the National Park Service, the South Carolina State Historic Preservation Office, and other local, state, and national stakeholders?

In respect to yourself, Mr. Murray, why are you taking this so personally as exhibited in your May 11th City Council Meeting where you expressed your disapproval of us alerting the National Park Service and made ad hominem assertions in the May 14th, 2021 Beaufort Gazette/Island Packet?

Beaufort urges you, Mr. Mayor, the City Council, and the City staff to muster the courage to admit past mistakes, void the current HDRB approvals, and send these massive infill projects to the ZBOA as required by law.

Sincerely yours,

Will Cook
Graham Trask