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The April 24 Beaufort City Council meeting was fiery.
The issue was the rezoning of two lots into the Bladen Street Redevelopment District. This newly created district adopts zoning called "form-based codes." This varies from the current zoning in that it is to streamline and simplify the application and approval process. It also eliminates Historic Review Board review, while the city instead defers to its "architect," who resides in Charlotte. The city plans to expand this type of zoning.
City Council argued what was good for the Bladen Street district should be good for these two lots. Contempt for past efforts of the Historic Beaufort Foundation and Historic Review Board was clear in comments made.
The two lots in question are visible from Bay Street. The foundation argued that some sort of public review is necessary as plans for change creep deeper into the National Historic Landmark District. As for "streamlining," 95 percent of project applicants received Historic Review Board approval in the past.
No one in the audience argued in favor of the council's position. Those supporting the Historic Beaufort Foundation's position were asked to stand. The overwhelming majority did. City Council voted unanimously to approve the ordinance change.
Form-based codes have a place, but the quality of the outcome depends on the quality and objectives of the community plan that the code implements. Without Historic Review Board and community feedback, we might not have to burn the historic district to destroy it, as one council member implied.