08 Aug More details on where we are running
This is a bit to read, but we have lots to do and I would be remiss if as a candidate for re-election I did not lay out projects, challenges and opportunities. That said Re-election is where the real work begins/continues and I hope you will run with me.
Boundary Street Redevelopment: We must complete the Boundary Street Redevelopment on time and on budget. Some have been inconvenienced by the work in progress and even though this project has been in the works for more than a decade, a surprising number of people do not have a grasp of what the end product will be.
I must continue to walk the street and keep talking and educating many who have misconceptions about the Boundary Street Redevelopment. For a more thorough explanation and up to date news, you can always go to http://www.cityofbeaufort.org/boundary-street.aspx
Meanwhile I will tell you.
The purpose of the Boundary Street Redevelopment is to improve public safety, reduce potential contaminants in the headwaters of Battery Creek and to provide a gateway that is as unique as our city.
Some believe Boundary Street will be reduced to two or three lanes. This is not the case. It will be two lanes each way. There will be wider and safer sidewalks with separation from the street, new lighting and planted medians. Unsafe and slightly utility lines will be buried.
For those concerned about medians, there will be two additional traffic signals and the road will be a little wider at intersections for safer U-turns.
Others believe the traffic circles will be installed. This is not the case. No traffic circles.
Some believe we are spending excessively and draining the city’s General Fund. No dollars are being used from the City’s operations budget. Dollars to pay for the project are in restricted accounts that were generated from the last countywide penny capital sales tax, from a federal grant and from dollars generated over many years from the Boundary Street Tax Incremental Tax District (TIF). Not a penny comes from city operations.
Some also believe that the dollars to purchase and demolish buildings on the south side of Boundary Street are coming out of operations money. This is not the case. The purchase of the property and the expansion of Battery Saxon into a large passive park, celebrating the wonderful vista over Battery Creek, comes from a three way partnership between Beaufort County Council, the Beaufort County Open Land Trust and the City’s restricted fund for purchasing land and open space. No additional taxes on the citizens. And fortunately the passive park will be low maintenance.
Some have said that it is dangerous to remove property on the south side of Boundary Street off of the tax roles will be costly in terms of lost revenue. Yes, we will remove a dead Huddle House the company will not reopen, a dead old metal Burton fire station and a non-taxed United Way building.
Some are concerned that Sea Eagle will leave the area. No! Sea Eagle will stay in the neighborhood with traffic signal access and space to expand. The United Way will also be relocated to a new space on the north side of Boundary not far from Sea Eagle. And finally the Boundary Street code permits larger structures that retailers need if they are coming to Beaufort and more density through multifamily residential.
I firmly believe that, once completed, the Boundary Street Redevelopment will cast a bright shinning light on our city by creating the gateway to our authentic historic community that it deserves and reflects what we are about. I believe it will be something we are very proud of and will create a very exciting venue, which over time will generate $150,000,000 in new taxable real estate value. This will not happen overnight but over time it establishes a way for our city to grow the right way.
Allison Road storm water and side walk Improvements
While most of the money, in matched grants is in the bank, the City has been waiting several years for SCDOT approval for the project. We submitted the plans six times before getting approvals. Regrettably, SC DOT requirements and the more than two years waiting have driven up the cost of the project by close to 10%. Accordingly, the cost exceeds dollars set aside and now we must find the additional money outside of general fund operations dollars. We are working on that.
Southside Boulevard storm water repairs and sidewalk repairs
Thanks to help from Beaufort County we finally secured the funding for repairing a very sick drainage system along Southside Boulevard. The work is underway and should be completed with safer sidewalks (away from the street’s edge and safer) within six months.
Southside Park Development
Many years ago, when the City transferred the assets of the City and Water Department to Beaufort Jasper Water and Sewer Authority, the City was given a 37-acre tract of land and in-kind services from BJWSA to build a park.
The neighbors designed the park they wanted, but the price tag of about $2.5 million was more than made sense and dollars the city did not have. Accordingly, the City has been working incrementally to develop the property as a passive park.
The long awaited Dog Park is constructed and open. The tree farm, to replace lost city trees in the future, is underway. Pending an imminent grant for the extensive walking trail that will run through the Park, the project will be underway.
A not for profit is working toward raising funds for playground equipment.
This has taken considerably longer than one would hope, but a 37-acre park, five times the size of the waterfront park, is a huge undertaking. We will get there and it is nice to know that non-profit organizations are already using the park for functions. And most of the time I ride by, I see people in the park.
Marina, Mooring field, dingy dock and day dock improvements
Again through grants, a number of improvements and additions are being made to the City owned marina that is leased to a private operator.
The mooring field is just about completed. There is money in the bank for a fire suppression system and rebuilding the transient (outside) dock. As soon as the fall snowbird season passes, this work and improvements to dingy dock just west of the marina will commence. We are still waiting approvals for the new day dock, for which funding is set aside, that will be aligned with the Scotts Street entrance to the park on the east end of the east side.
The marina is a great asset for residents and visitors. In concert with future planning for repairs and expansion of the Henry C Chambers waterfront park, we must to take a long, hard and deep look into how this asset can better serve the community and its customers.
I am going to ask the Redevelopment Commission to deploy a citizens marina commission to study and make recommendations relative to how we can make the marina and water access even better.
The establishment of the Beaufort Code
While the Civic Master Plan is a long term vision for how the City might grow, for it to be implemented and to make our development codes more predictable, and to remove outdated requirements, we need a new code or alternatively to make significant changes to the exiting code.
This is not an easy process and it should not be taken lightly. It must be inclusive of community engagement.
As we were completing the Master Plan, we convened a panel of stakeholders to write the new code. Unfortunately the group was too large, our own staff and consultants had not yet given them what was necessary and they were essentially and unnecessarily starting from scratch. Because I wanted the panel to be as inclusive as possible, I insisted that it be all-inclusive. This was a mistake because while a larger group, and for that matter multiple groups, can review a proposed code they cannot write a code from scratch.
Lesson learned, we rebooted the code development process with a smaller technical committee, which completed a first draft.
That draft it is now being vetted by neighborhoods and other stakeholders, including developers and builders before it goes back to the neighborhoods, then to the Beaufort Port Royal Metropolitan Planning Commission.
I could be mistaken, but I believe this process if it is to be successful will take us into 2017. And I do not believe we should rush.
A bungled code into which the community does not buy in is no improvement and does not meet the goal we set out to achieve.
Storm Water System Repairs
It is amazing how many dollars are invested in infrastructure below the ground that no one ever sees. It is not amazing to see flooded streets and private yards flooded when the work is not done. And it is disappointing that the SCDOT does not maintain state owned assets like sidewalks, potholes and storm water systems leaving the burden on local governments.
While there is a long list of projects on the list, a number of projects are currently underway. Among others they include Hancock Street where one home is flooded every time there is a significant rain; West street at North street where poor drainage is compounded by sheets of water flowing off of the post office property; Broad Street which is surrounded by three drainage ditches being cleaned so the system can work as designed; and several others of equal significance.
Though I am not sure we can ever catch up without state financial participation, every year City Council sets aside a portion of the budget, which far exceeds the storm water fee we collect each year. We are constantly searching for grants to supplement and stretch these dollars.
Having established a Cultural District in downtown Beaufort in concert with the SC Arts Commission, the City is establishing a Commission to promote the district and activities within.
Having held what was perhaps the state’s largest and most successful SC Humanities Festival, some of the twenty organizations that participated want to make this an annual event. I think this is a grand idea and will continue.
Last year the City of Beaufort’s Designated Marketing Organization determined through research that while a large percentage of our visitors come to Beaufort to learn about our history, a large number were disappointed by what they saw. That said, we are making huge progress at organizing and presenting our rich history to our school children, residents and visitors.
Though money is tight, and they could use your help as docents and financial contributors, the Beaufort History Museum is running strong with exhibits that shed a bright light on our rich history.
Celebrating the 450th Anniversary of the Spanish landing at Santa Elena, the Santa Elena History Museum formally opened with fabulous events not the least of which was the visiting Spanish Galleon which is a replica of what arrived many years ago. The permanent exhibit is installed with improvements made every day. Santa Foundation is presenting educational programs unlike what our community has seen in the past. They too need your help. The investment brings rewards.
Since becoming Mayor, I have been working with grant writers, Congressmen Clyburn and Sanford and the nations top historians of the Reconstruction to establish a national monument to interpret the unique History of The Reconstruction period in Beaufort which started in Beaufort County as much as four years before the end of the Civil War. It has been a long haul, but keeping our eye on the target, I feel certain we are making significant progress.
Last year I helped establish a team to plan and eventually build a Hub and Reconstruction Interpretative center for residents and visitors. We have pending grants for planning and will follow up with grants for programming and the creation of a center in downtown Beaufort. If we are able to fund the program, a private party downtown will donate an impressive visible and accessible iconic building. Also last year a National Endowment for the Humanities grant, which I instigated with a grant writer, was awarded to USCB to bring together top historians together with teachers from across the country to teach them so they can better teach this yet to written history. The grant has been awarded for another teachers institute in 2017 so we will see teachers from around the US converge on Beaufort next summer.
Earlier this summer Beaufort resident Dr. John McCardell, currently the President of the University of the South (aka Sewanee) brought a class to Beaufort to study the area, our history and how it is still a missing piece of written history. The collaboration with USCB was quite successful, we are hoping the venture will return next year and eventually expand to include several universities that will bring students to Beaufort.
As a new innovation for USCB, I believe this is but one of several ways we can grow the content and student body at USCB. I understand several graduate programs are underway that will broaden the appeal and programming on the Historic Beaufort Campus. While the USCB strategic plan, under the leadership of Chancellor Al Panu, is still underway I am confident there will be an expanded role for Beaufort. That too will require community support.
The ongoing capital campaign to improve through upgrades to sound, lighting and other technical capacities for USCB’s Center for the Arts continues, we still have a way to go. If you are asked to help I hope you will do so.
Yes, we have a long way to run and to complete the course I will need your help during my re-election and afterwards.
In order to keep Beaufort authentic as we cherish it, we must maintain a careful balance between tourism, retirement living and an active workforce with opportunities for those who grow up here and work hear. While we can always do better, I am confident we are heading in the right direction on retirement and tourism. I remain concerned about the workforce challenges that must be accomplished.
Realizing that competition for support for financial and technical assistance for job diversification/creation is very competitive, the City can no longer wait for someone to do our work though we will never give up on county wide and regional collaboration. Accordingly, the City Redevelopment Commission set up a committee, spearheaded by Councilman Stephen Murray with support from businesses and retirees.
Thus far they have hit a home run by partnering with the immensely successful Charleston Digital Corridor to build a Beaufort Digital Corridor at 500 Carteret Street in the vacated bank building. Construction is underway to build a facility and create a culture for the creative community. A number of emerging Beaufort businesses have also expressed interest and some of the smaller companies in Charleston have indicated they will also use the center. Currently branded as Base Camp, in addition to operating the center, The Digital Corridor will also offer classes in coding, programs that will encourage and enhance collaboration among technology entities and an inviting atmosphere for businesses that are already here and others that will be recruited. Very, very exciting. To learn more about the Beaufort Digital Corridor go to: http://www.beaufortdigital.com
While to the disappointment of others and me, the Beaufort Commerce Park was not a home run. That said, the commerce park was just certified the SC Department of Commerce meaning that it can be marketed through the state system when this was not the case in the past. We have no expectations of home runs, but know that several companies are looking at available vacant buildings. Unfortunately, seeking to expand and relocate in a manner of months and not years, prospects expect product in the form of buildings and not dirt as had had been the case earlier. Our vision is that small companies from the Digital Corridor, once ready to manufacture actual products, will find a funder to create an accelerator helping them to grow. And then come recycled or new buildings as they succeed. A slow process indeed, but very important to maintaining our authenticity, created better jobs closer to home for students returning from school and relieving some of the burden from current residents and businesses.
This will be a personal commitment until I die because I know, not withstanding our critics and those who want to maintain a captive workforce for tourism, it is the right thing for Beaufort and our future. Balance between tourism, retirement living and a diverse business community is essential to Beaufort remaining authentic as I believe we all want.
With the realization a number of years ago that there is little for young people to do, some have little hope for a better life because of the dearth of good paying jobs in Beaufort, I decided to on my own launch a program that was branded by our first class of students “Young Leaders of Beaufort.”
Meeting once a month during the school year, four students from each of our nine middle schools north of the Broad River have gathered to learn about how city government works, what non- profits do and how they can have an impact. During the course of each session, we visit places of interest in the community, engage in a modest service project and have group discussions about leadership, opportunities for their future and challenges ahead. I remind them that the Mayor is but a bridge between generations and they must begin to prepare for their term.
We will start our third years in the fall and I am expected even more exciting programs as partners like the Beaufort Drug and Alcohol Abuse staff and others have come to the table to conduct leadership and collaboration as a tool for success. I personally funded the first year, but will be seeking donations for shirts for the students and other associated costs. My vision for the fourth year is to add to the middle school program a program, focused on community service, to high school students.
Infill and Redevelopment in the greater downtown
Beaufort’s brightest future lies in the redevelopment of dilapidated housing stock in our city center. It brings efficiency which saves operational costs for the city, it creates a more tightly knit community which is a principal feature of a great hometown and it meets the need of the demographic interested in living in the city.
While it is preferable, it is not easy work as there are many barriers, not the least of which is the cost of land, the cost of construction, the cost of necessary infrastructure and breaking taking head on the culture that everyone needs a quarter acre lot with a chain link fence to keep your children and pets in and your neighbors out. There is nothing wrong with this but its vast proliferation has drawn to massive development on Ladys Island, which creates difficult to manage traffic, bridge dependency and large retail stores to meet the needs of the rooftops and benefit from the disposable income and traffic patterns.
The more people living in the inner city creates opportunities for growing existing retail, curtailing traffic congestion and an ambiance that many say they want. Again it is about balance.
After studying the potential and challenges for infill and redevelopment, the RDC task force assigned to this mission recognizes that to tackle the whole is impossible. Accordingly, they have broken it down into smaller and more doable portions. They recently completed a plan to make Duke Street, where the City has invested in sidewalks, organized on street parking and a streetscape with new street lighting, a model for how infill and redevelopment can work. There are over 140 potential projects on that one street going from Ribaut Road to Charles Street. They will soon present to city council a series of incentives for families living there to improve properties and for other families to build new homes. Furthermore, at the suggestion of the Arts Council, the City adopted an overlay for an Arts District in the central city where smaller houses, working spaces for artists and more affordable houses and dependency units can be constructed. Yes, we are focused and I believe this will achieve success.
Environment: Offshore Drilling and Sea Level Rise
While a coalition of 300 cities and thousands of businesses were able to get the Department of the Interior to remove the south Atlantic coast from the five year leasing plan, the are considering three permits to permit seismic testing. I will continue to work on this.
Sea Level rise is admittedly a ways down the road. But since Beaufort is small and will eventually be in the queue behind larger more needy cities, I formed a volunteer team, assisted by NOAA to determine our vulnerabilities and make suggestions. After presenting to City Council the task force presented to neighborhoods around the city. We are waiting the final report that will then be used to apply for a grant for engineering. I hope this early action by citizens will get us ahead of the curve.
Beaufort: Pride of Place
Is a link on the City Website that invites citizens to contribute to efforts to beautify Beaufort? Staff launched the effort several months ago and some people have donated money for park benches, shrubs and even Youth Leadership.
Given so many people who live outside of the City would like to help us remain beautiful and grow the right way, I intend to market this concept more aggressively as it provides a way to help the city and in so doing help your self, your family and your business.
It seems I could write forever about the many projects. If nothing else I have laid out for you many activities in which the City is engaged to grow Beaufort in the right direction.
To continue these and many other activities necessary to improve the best hometown in the world, I will need your help in the campaign and beyond. To join the run and help your city I again humbly ask for your help. Click here to donate and join the campaign as a valuable volunteer.