Beaufort City Council emasculates Historic Review Board, opens door to massive buildings and tract housing in historic district

hbf logoBy a vote of 3 to 2, Beaufort City Council last night emasculated the city’s Historic Review Board by abolishing Historic Beaufort Foundation’s seat on the board. The foundation’s representative, one of five members, has held the seat since the Historic Review Board was formed by City Council decades ago. Mayor Billy Keyserling and two of his fellow council members, Nan Sutton and Mike McFee, voted to remove the foundation’s membership. The other two council members, Phil Cromer and Steve Murray, voted to retain the seat.

The action leaves the board with a membership composed of people not one of whom is specifically charged with protecting Beaufort’s historic architectural and environmental heritage, the fundamental purpose of the board.

In a related move, the council approved 4 to 1 a proposal supported by developers Dick Stewart and Sam Levin to abolish the 160-foot limit on the length of apartment buildings within the city limits including within the historic district, thus allowing massive  buildings that are the antithesis of Beaufort’s historic architecture.

The only member of City Council who voted against the measure was Phil Cromer. “I was the lone vote against because I wanted the Affordable Housing Task Force to weigh in before it went to council”, Cromer stated to the Tribune. “My position on the 160-foot requirement is important in the historic district but may not be feasible in other non-historic areas of the city.”

Second and final vote on these decisions will be held by City Council at its next meeting on December 10.

A further proposal would allow eight-foot ceiling heights and flat-on-grade foundations in residential structures, possibly opening the way for tract housing in the Northwest Quadrant such as constructed by D.H. Horton and other national builders. According to Cromer these changes will be considered by the Affordable Housing Task Force before any vote of council is taken.