In what Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling called “a bold decision, a historic decision, an important decision,” the Beaufort City Council Tuesday night unanimously put the gears in motion to annex, buy and rezone a 167-acre Commerce Park near the Marine Corps Air Station.
Final consideration and votes on the Commerce Park purchase and annexation are scheduled for Tuesday, April 3 at 7 p.m.
Current owners of the Commerce Park parcels petitioned their land to be annexed into the city limits. At the same time, City Council approved on first reading the purchase of the Commerce Park for $1.85 million —less than what the property had been appraised at last year. The contract with SCBT bank calls for the deal to close within 60 days.
The council also approved initial reading of an ordinance to amend the Unified Development Ordinance to create an “industrial park” zoning district for the Commerce Park. The site will be used for heavy and light industrial purposes.
“This is a big first step in providing a brighter future for Beaufort, for the families of Beaufort, the children of Beaufort and the military stationed in Beaufort,” Keyserling said. “We have a lot of work ahead of us before this is finalized, and we’ll get a lot of questions. Our job is to provide a lot of answers and see this through.
“The time is now to go after better paying jobs for the people of northern Beaufort County,” Keyserling said. “This is a patience game. It doesn’t happen overnight … We need to do everything we can to diversify the economic base.”
The Commerce Park is located near Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort. The park was most recently owned by the Lowcountry Economic Network and prior to that it was owned by a group of private investors.
Each year, Beaufort sets aside funding for land purchases and currently has $1.034 million available. Several options, to include financing, are available for the balance, and none of them require a tax increase for city residents, Keyserling said.
Part of Beaufort’s comprehensive plan includes expanding the city’s economic base while growing and grooming its core areas through infill development. The City Council uses the comp plan to guide its decisions.
“This is one more way we are approaching ‘City-building,’ by seeking ways to expand Beaufort’s economic base,” Beaufort City Manager Scott Dadson said.