25 Apr Concerns about Arts District have little to do with art
Here is a letter sent to Council and my response about the creation of an Arts District in the city’s core:
“Dear Council members, Mayor and City Manager,
This email will speak to some concerns many of us have in the NWQ regarding the initiative related to the Art Overlay and affordable housing in our neighborhood.
Billy K: Thanks for taking the time and interest to share your thoughts and concerns.
It appears that there could be between forty (or up to sixty if two are placed on half the lots) accessory buildings built in our neighborhood since we were told there were 40 vacant lots. It is also our understanding that all of these could be dwelling units if desired and that the intent is to make artists feel welcome by allowing them to exhibit and sell their art in their yards and be intentionally visible to the street.
Billy K: Based on my real estate background, though I am no longer active nor do I have access to the MLS, I would be surprised if we see ten of this type of property built in the next year. Once some start the process, it will give us a chance to hone the code if necessary. Nothing in what is proposed limits the dwellings to artists though the Arts Council believes smaller homes would be an attraction to artists. Teachers, firefighters, nurses and other working people being chased from Beaufort due to the high cost of living might see this as an opportunity to live in the city rather than leave in search of more affordable places. There are not minimum or maximum sizes though the Historic District Review Board will determine appropriate mass and scale as well as placement on a lot. Furthermore and perhaps more importantly, the process may make it more affordable for families who grew up in the city to return and for existing families to create places for adult children and/or parents. The likelihood of the approximately 77 vacant lots being used is far from reality. The rate of real estate development, as this is not a tract subdivision, will only be of interest to a smaller but important market.
Certainly the city and the residents all agree that we want the NWQ neighborhood and all Beaufort neighborhoods to look attractive and well kept.
To that end:
- The modular buildings should be of good quality and erected by builders with extensive experience in erecting them.
Billy K: Modular homes are not mobile homes. I have both built and sold modular (factory built) homes which must conform to the highest national standards. In fact, modular homes (especially smaller ones) are more expensive to build than site-built homes. In my view, if small cottages are built they are likely to be site built. But if a modular home builder comes to the table and provides a good product, why not take advantage of it? In most cases, the porches and exteriors are added on-site and would be required by staff to differ so there would not be a mill village effect with similar houses lining a street.
- There should be landscaping (of at least the required elements required for primary homes) put in by builder for the lots of accessory buildings with street frontage, and it should be maintained.
Billy K: It is my understanding that landscape standards would be no different than what they are today.
- The incentive for artists to feel welcome by allowing their art to be displayed and sold outside, on porches and in the front yard is flawed and could easily become a negative. Depending on the art and how it is displayed , it could be an unpleasant distraction or possibly age inappropriate or offensive to both visitors and residents because there is no way to regulate it. It also could enable a perpetual yard sale appearance.
Billy K: Art would not be sold on the street or in the yards as they would be regulated like other home occupations in that customers could come to them. Street sales and displays are prohibited. Artist or no artist, one can put art on one’s porch today. Just like one can put rocking chairs and hammocks. There is also to my knowledge proposed codes preventing statues in one’s yard. Signage would be ruled by the city sign ordinance so larger signs would not be prohibited.
- The number of occupants in an accessory building needs to be established if it is a dwelling unit . Perhaps it could be in line with the Fair Housing Act limits or DHEC for health and safety.
Billy K: I am not aware of such limits but will explore. I have no knowledge that the city regulates the number of inhabitants in a home. I can find out and think about a criteria.
Lastly, although this item is not related to the Art Overlay and affordable housing, it is obvious that the long term rental houses need to be better maintained, repaired and have landscaping attention, just mowing would help. This would be the single most important change to improve our neighborhood. Many of these houses are on the road to becoming abandoned and falling down. This is probably the item with the most impact on our neighborhood.
Billy K: This is true. When we first entertained short term rentals outside of the commercial areas, it was suggested that we should regulate long term rentals the same. The realtors and some property owners came out in droves. They said if they were required to fix up and maintain standards which we all believe should be maintained, it would run up the rent and tenants would have no other place to go. We let it rest and may very well revisit it as we continue to get more complaints. I think we should wait to hear from Code Enforcement before addressing this so we know how bad the situation may be.
As you examine the UDO code and the New Beaufort Code, please carefully consider whether these issues are addressed in them, and if not, address them. Thank you very much and I hope you will share your thoughts or reactions with me by email. I am glad to forward them to the parties on this list. There are also others who I feel would agree with this letter but due to just hearing about the workshop roundtable yesterday, I was unable to reach them in time. I will give you other names latter.
Billy K: Thanks again for writing and sharing.
Stay tuned and engaged. We need this kind of engagement to make our great little city the best it can be.