"That shouldn't continue," committee chairwoman Heather Winch said. "I take full responsibility for that."
Owners of Beaufort's two horse carriage companies complained last month that the committee often met in private, shutting them out of a process that could determine how they do business.
City officials confirmed that the panel had gone into closed session at each of its meetings since being formed last year to review the ordinance and suggest changes.
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Beaufort City Council approved the first reading of an ordinance Tuesday allowing the city to partner with a nonprofit housing finance agency that says it can help provide affordable housing for the local workforce.
City Council voted unanimously to approve the ordinance allowing the city to work with the Charleston-based Lowcountry Housing Trust, a regional group that provides loans to nonprofit and for-profit developers and governments to build affordable homes to be rented or owned.
The approaches include new construction, rehabilitating vacant units and converting commercial buildings to residential use.
"The ability to rehabilitate is something that has been missing forever," said Councilwoman Donnie Beer. "We have people living in homes near us that are in worse shape than what we would allow our hounds to live in because they can't afford to rehab it."
With partners in Charleston, Dorchester, Berkeley and Georgetown counties, the trust requires at least a $130,000 investment to start work in a new area and prefers partners agree to stay with the program -- contributing at that same level or more -- for at least three years, trust executive director Michelle Mapp has said.
City Council will hold off on the second -- and final -- reading of the ordinance until the town of Port Royal introduces a similar ordinance to work with the trust, city officials said Tuesday.
Beaufort plans to partner with Port Royal and split the $135,000 price tag for the first year, city manager Scott Dadson said.
Of the total cost, $35,000 would be used for administrative fees.
The remaining $100,000 would go into a revolving loan fund and be used to qualify for federal and state grants along with private-sector programs that cater to community projects, Mapp has said.
If the ordinance is approved by both municipalities, Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling said the partnership would go a long way toward helping build more affordable housing in the city and in Port Royal.
"No matter what the project is, it's always about the money," Keyserling said. "This will mean that we have someone here who knows how to go out and find the money for this kind of housing. It's essentially like having a banker who specializes in affordable housing stock as a partner."