Review Category : From our Mayor – Billy K

Beaufort loses Jack Keener, an icon to all who knew him

By Billy Keyserling

While riding in the Veterans Day Parade last week, my colleagues and I somehow got on the subject of acorns falling from trees. When a question arose that we could not answer, we thought about Jack Keener who was the expert on such things, among most other matters of nature. What a loss Jack’s tragic death brings to our community.

As I get older, I seem to be going to way too many funerals. But I find at most funerals, I have a “take away” that I want to share with others since there are so many lessons to learn when examining and celebrating the lives of those who have been cornerstones in our wonderful community.

Several weeks ago, I attended a huge gathering where throngs of people assembled at the Beaufort National Cemetery to celebrate the life of one of Beaufort’s quiet and unsung heroes.

Jack Keener was a former classmate from Beaufort High School, who I had the good fortune to work with while in the State Legislature and since. Though I never became one of Jack’s close friends, I admired his passion and commitment to learning, to teaching and to sharing with others his vast knowledge about the special quality of life in the Lowcountry.

As l looked around seeing his family, former colleagues and friends grieving our loss, I actually thought about those who were unfortunate to have never had the opportunity to know Jack Keener. Those who did not benefit from his gentle kindness or the generous way he shared his lifetime assemblage of knowledge about the outdoors on the land as well as in our estuaries and waterways. Jack who served his community in so many ways.

My take away led me to pause to remind myself of what community is all about: how engaging with others is important and fulfilling and how many in our community I do not know and have, accordingly, never learned from.

Jack was a giant whose life is to be remembered as such. His loss is a wake-up call to those who do not reach out to each other and engage others who have so much to offer.

Fortunately, we still have time. Let’s not waste it. Let’s get to know each other better and benefit from the exchange of the vast knowledge and ideas our diverse community offers.

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Election over: Moving forward

By Billy Keyserling

With the election finally behind us and the TV commercials off the air, hopefully our worlds will settle down to normalcy and the National Congress and the administration will get to work on long overdue conversations and solutions to the pending budget crisis. Not the least is Sequestration, which is hanging over the heads of all Americans and those charged with our national defense and will have an adverse impact on Beaufort.
At home I am looking forward to moving forward with our many initiatives including the promotion of economic diversity though workforce development and industrial recruitment, engaging the public in new ways more appropriate for Beaufort, and a transparent and user friendly zoning ordinance which will be known as the “Beaufort Code”, even though it will include elements of form-based code. The work on Boundary Street is around the corner and phase I of the Rail to Trail is done, with a formal opening in a few weeks,
The Transitional Work Force Education Assistant Collaboration, (TWEAC, which is nonprofit in which the city is participating along with the Lowcountry Economic Alliance) thanks to seed funding from the Lowcountry Economic Alliance, is off to a good start having hired retired Staff Sergeant Dwight Hora, USMC, Ret. as the Military Liaison. Dwight is already recruiting soon to be exiting Marines and Sailors and matching them with skilled Lowcountry jobs that exist. I continue to believe this will be a model for our state if not our region and the nation as it is a truly unique approach to solving the challenge of jobs for those who served our nation and the desperate need for industry to find skilled workers.
Also, thank you to City Council candidates Mike McFee, George O’Kelley and Pete Palmer for offering yourselves to public service.

Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling can be reached by email at billyk@islc.net.

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Fighting crime is everyone’s challenge

By Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling

While being mayor is a fun, exciting and rewarding opportunity, there are times that are not fun. One of those is dealing with unacceptable behavior, specifically threats to public safety in our neighborhoods and on our streets.
A year or so ago, we experienced a rash of thefts, vandalism and other issues around the downtown Marina. Through collaboration among the downtown merchants, the marina operator and our residents we addressed the problems with proactive measures, and they ended.
Last summer, we experienced juveniles brandishing firearms and taking shots at others who had no safe place indoors to play basketball or other activities. The police took immediate action, found the perpetrators and a community organization was formed to make sure the Charles Lynn Brown Center was reopened so that good youngsters now have a safe place to go. Fingers crossed, that problem was taken care of, although it can reoccur, so we must remain vigilant.
In recent weeks, we had three very unfortunate incidents in area around Bay and Port Republic streets. The police are working on this and I would encourage those who live and work downtown to maintain a watchful eye and call the police if they see anything suspicious. (The direct line is 843-524-2777.)
A number of people have recommended more police officers and perhaps even some on foot patrolling downtown. If resources were unlimited, this certainly would not hurt, but after talking with Beaufort Police Department Chief Clancy and Beaufort City Manager Scott Dadson, I am convinced that the area is well covered. My examination of records assures me that officers are in the area and respond to every call within remarkable time frames.
I asked Chief Clancy what we could do to engage the neighborhood and merchants to help report crimes.
The Police Chief has made himself available to meet with merchants, but the last time he met with those invited to a meeting through Main Street, few people showed up because the day meetings were difficult because they were minding their shops, and evening meetings would not work because after a hard day’s work, they were ready to rest and go home to be with their families. Both are certainly reasonable. But we need to find a time and place since such meetings are necessary if the police are going to council merchants on how to create preventative measures and understand the best way to handle challenging circumstances.
If merchants are not able to leave their places of business, the police department will be happy to schedule individual meetings with merchants and their employees, at their business, at a mutually agreeable time.
I wholeheartedly believe in our law enforcement officers and their leadership, but also know that they cannot be everywhere all the time, are not always able to see everything that takes place. They need our help so they can do the best they can to keep our streets and our neighborhoods safe for all.

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Boundary Street Redevelopment Project: Answering your questions

By Mayor Billy Keyserling

On Thursday, July 12, the City of Beaufort and Beaufort County held a public information session related to the proposed and upcoming improvements to the Boundary Street Redevelopment District. The purpose of the public information session was to provide an opportunity for area residents to review and discuss individually with representatives of the county and city the improvements for Boundary Street. The Boundary Street Project consists of replacement of the center turning lane with a median, realignment of SC 170 and the addition of a 10-foot-wide multi-use path. The project begins at Neil Road and ends at Ribaut Road. We have developed answers to some frequently asked questions related to this project.

SC 170/US 21 intersection realignment and use of roundabouts
The Traffic Study that was conducted as part of the 2009 Boundary Street Improvements indicated that a roundabout at the SC 170 and US 21/Boundary Street intersection would not function adequately due to the high traffic volumes. The intersection will remain as a signalized intersection but will be realigned as shown in the Boundary Street plans.
Roadway improvements for this phase of the Boundary Street project will end at Marsh Drive and will not include the proposed roundabout Ribaut Road that was shown in the 2006 Boundary Street Master Plan and 2009 Feasibility Study.

Raised median, Limited median openings and narrow lanes for access management and traffic calming
Currently, the US 21/Boundary Street corridor consists of two 12-foot travel lanes in each direction separated by a 15 foot-wide two-way left turn lane. Boundary Street serves approximately 40,000 vehicles per day (vpd). The proposed US 21/Boundary Street will consist of two 11 foot-wide travel lanes in each direction separated by a 17-foot-wide raised landscape median as well as new, wider sidewalks separated from Boundary Street by a planting strip on the northern and southern sides of Boundary Street. In the event of a natural emergency, such as a hurricane evacuation, the corridor can be managed to allow for four outbound lanes as needed.
A 10-foot-wide multi-use path/boardwalk will be constructed along the marshes of Battery Creek on the southern side of the corridor.

Emergency vehicle access
Concerns about emergency vehicle access and evacuation have been expressed and considered throughout the entire process. The Beaufort County Emergency Management Department was actively involved in the 2009 Feasibility Study Phases and the following features have been planned for: design will be verified to accommodate the emergency vehicles; raised median will use mountable curbs for emergency vehicle use; periodic breaks in landscaping to allow for median crossings by emergency vehicles; and installation of preemptive equipment for existing and new signals throughout the corridor for emergency vehicle use.
In addition to the design features identified above, the parallel road and network of interconnected streets will be useful for emergency vehicle access.

Right-of-way acquisition
During the design phase, all attempts will be made to minimize the number of displacements and impacts to adjacent properties while meeting the needs of the community. All necessary property acquisitions and relocations will be in accordance with the applicable state and federal laws and regulations. Those individuals involved in displacements will be offered comparable housing, and property owners will be paid at fair market value for their property and may be paid proximity damages in accordance with state and federal guidelines. Any affected property owners will be given sufficient advance notice of the intention to purchase any property to allow for sufficient relocation time.
To preview the Boundary Street Redevelopment Plan, go to: http://www.cityofbeaufort.org/Data/Sites/1/media/Departments/planning/boundary-st-redevelopment-plan-adopted-06-12-07.pdf.

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Clarifying the city’s position: What is the status on Boundary Street redevelopment and Ribaut Road plans?

By Mayor Billy Keyserling
Over the past several weeks, there has been a loud rumble about suggestions that Beaufort City Council will reduce the number of lanes on Boundary Street and along Ribaut Road.
One of the missions of planners, working in concert with local government and our citizens, is to study our community and to generate ideas for discussion about future ways for making a great community even better. Once their proposals are on the table and undergo scrutiny from the Beaufort Port Royal Metro Planning Commission, The Redevelopment Commission, The City Council and the residents, some of the ideas stick while others are discarded or postponed until a later date.
That being said, one must remember that because most vertical improvements will be driven by private investment and not public dollars, a plan is basically a framework for the future with the idea of the public and private sectors partnering to create improvements, most of which must be driven by private dollars.
During the past four years, after many group meetings and discussions, one of the community’s principal concern has been to enhance and in some cases restore our city’s “sense of place” that has been challenged by what is now antiquated planning from the 1970’s.
When it comes to the City Council’s plans to reduce the number of lanes in the Boundary Redevelopment District, the short answer is that the City Council has not decided to remove lanes. With regards to Ribuat Road, the city is exploring ways to best move traffic, pedestrians and cyclist throughout our community.

The Boundary Street Redevelopment District
Created through an extensive public process by the city around 2006 and funded from the penny sales tax, which the citizens supported in a voter referendum, and from federal grants, the Boundary Street Redevelopment District has been engineered and approved and is nearing construction. It is not a new idea just coming to the table though I fear some believe this is the case.
While some of the lanes on Boundary will be narrowed, and some islands will be installed, the number of lanes will not be decreased at any point along the approximately 1 mile stretch between the intersection of Ribaut Road and Boundary and a new intersection where there will be a safer T-shaped intersection at S.C. 170 and Boundary Street.
The second part is a parallel road and connecting network of smaller roads to enhance traffic circulation through this narrow area.
Furthermore, while we initially have funding for three blocks, which includes a portion of the parallel road to the north, this will provide interconnectivity and lessen the load on U.S. 21 by providing internal circulation to current and new development on the north side of Boundary.

Ribaut Road
While planners and residents have long suggested changes to Ribaut Road, the city has not yet approved any changes with the exception of the intersection of Allison and Ribaut roads where we are working with Beaufort Memorial Hospital to make the road safer for pedestrians and more attractive.
If you take the time to study Ribaut Road, you will note that it serves different purposes at different points between Boundary Street and Mossy Oaks Road where it goes into the Town of Port Royal.  It may be that some yet-to-be-conceived lane changes may be worthy of consideration — with the caveat that it does not lose capacity or in any way create more safety hazards.
Based on what is currently on the table, I think it is fair to say that Ribaut Road will most likely remain four lanes, though some lanes may be narrowed to allow for green space, wider sidewalks and to slow traffic to speeds that are safer for automobiles, bicycles, pedestrians and families who live on Ribaut Road, which is historically a residential street.
Residents, along with staff, planners, the SCDOT and others are still looking at Ribaut Road and any further discussion about this will be open to public with plenty of time for discussion as Ribaut Road is included in what is referred to as Sectors 2 and 3 in the Civic Master Plan, which has not yet been fully vetted by the council, The Redevelopment Commission or the Beaufort Port Royal Metropolitan Planning Commission.  Stay tuned and continue to share your thoughts.

The Future
Over the next couple of years, you are likely to hear a lot of “ideas” tossed around for consideration by the City Council, our Redevelopment Commission and our citizens. Before you jump to conclusions, I would invite you to (a) participate in some of the public meetings where you can hear what we are talking about and weigh in with your thoughts and/or (b) check out what we are doing on the city’s website and/or (c) call or write to me or my colleagues on City Council.
We do the best we can to be an open book, but we are actively taking on more and more improvement projects, so please stay tuned so that you do not miss hearing new ideas and weighing in.

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Remembering Leroy Gibbs Sr.: A community ‘rock’ whose life provides inspiration for us all

By Billy Keyserling
I recently attended the very moving funeral service for the late Leroy Gibbs Sr. who recently passed away. Though I knew him well by reputation, I had no personal relationship with “Mr. Leroy,” as he was known throughout his neighborhood in the Northwest Quadrant in downtown Beaufort. For years I have been friends with his son, Scott, whose beautifully sweet and gentle voice rings throughout the Lowcountry as he sings at almost every good cause I attend. Like his dad, Scott is a gentle, kind and giving person.
As I heard family and friends talk about Mr. Gibbs, I felt inspired by his life to write this:
Affectionately known by many as the “Mayor of Congress Street,” Leroy Gibbs Sr. was a Beaufort native who, among other abilities, became a master carpenter where he spent most of his career working for Kinghorn Building Supply Company.
Along with his neighbors, Mr. Gibbs started the first Neighborhood Crime Watch and served as President of the United Block Association.
His friends who have lived in the neighborhood for years have told me that there are not many homes in the Northwest Quadrant that “Mr. Leroy” did not build or repair when his neighbors were in need. He fixed the bicycles or toys of neighborhood children, and was only a call away when his wise counsel or his sharpened skills were needed.
Mr. Gibbs was a quiet and evidently self-assured gentleman who never expected anything in return for his good deeds other than the satisfaction of helping others.
Mr. Leroy Gibbs Sr. was clearly a “community rock” who will be forever missed.
In these times of “it’s all about me,” a man of Mr. Gibbs’ stature will be sorely missed and I see his passing as a gentle reminder to all of us that family and community come first, that good deeds do not need recognition and that building community is something that made this city great, and we can make it even greater.

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Running for re-election, against myself

By Billy Keyserling
At 12:30 last Wednesday afternoon, I learned — as the deadline for filing for Mayor passed — that no one will be on the ballot running against me. Gearing up and ready to run, I had a funny feeling.
How am I going to run for re-election if there is no opponent?
You see, being mayor is not about Billy Keyserling. Rather, it is about making our “best hometown in the world” even better. It’s about communicating more clearly, as well as listening and learning to work well together toward shared goals. It’s about having the confidence to consider new ideas and opportunities even though we may not fully understand the consequences. It’s about achieving success, admitting when something does not go the way we thought it would, acknowledging so and making it right.
Being mayor is about being accessible to Beaufort residents — those who encounter problems with government plus those who need help how we can build on our history and natural beauty without destroying all we have inherited. In all cases, we must continuously be aware that we are merely custodians of the city we love for just a relatively short span within the 300-year timeline of our community.
I had looked forward to campaigning because I learned long ago that elections are the people’s best opportunity to hold you accountable for what you promised, and measure how they think you have done. People generally think more about public life when a local campaign is under way and are more engaged in civic matters.
So even though I have no “official” opponent, between now and election day I am going to campaign anyway in order to be a part of the process of listening, learning and gauging how am I am representing you as mayor of Beaufort.
In this case, I am going to take a page from a successful big city mayor who told the city’s voters when he had no election opponent, “I’ve never been one to sit out an election and, while I am grateful for what some of my friends have said is voter confidence in my public service, I will be engaged and available as if I had a serious opponent.”
I thank the people of Beaufort for the chance to serve another term. You’ll be seeing a lot me at campaign events this fall — whether they be Republican, Democrat or non-partisan.
As Michelangelo said at age 91, “I am still learning.”

Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling can be reached by email at billyk@islc.net.

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Does it make sense to dispose of surplus city land and purchase alternative parcels that better serve the public?

By Mayor Billy Keyserling

“Why in the world would the City Council consider selling surplus property and possibly public parks?”

Since our city’s founding fathers started laying out street grids in downtown Beaufort about 300 years ago, the importance of open space and organized parks for passive and active recreation has been a critical factor in making Beaufort special.

As the years passed and new opportunities arose, parks — not the least of which are the celebrated Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park and Pigeon Point Park — were created. (Many may not know that Pigeon Point Park was once a post war apartment complex, that later housed small businesses and was the actual birthplace for the YMCA of Beaufort. Or that a mjoar portion of the the waterfront park was builto over the water.)

Those efforts continue today and changes will be made into the future as neighborhoods change, as lifestyles change and as the city grows. What made sense yesterday might not make sense tomorrow. Then again it might. But I believe we owe it to the residents to assess needs and make changes if necessary.

Currently the city owns and maintains 28 parks and I would venture to say many of you might not be able to find half of them and even fewer could name them. A review of them leads us to believe some do not make the same sense today as they may have when they were created.

Furthermore, city properties,  previously used by the public works and police departments, are no longer used or needed into the future.  Should we hold and maintain them or make them availableto the private sector for constructive use while putting them on the tax rolls.

The city’s comprehensive plan and cicic master plans, including the many design charrette’s held over the past year, have been used to gather input about the need for, the possibility of, and the potential for parks, greenways and open space into the City’s future.

This is an ongoing effort to build a better Beaufort, to make it more useful and usable to its residents and visitors.

For example, the sale of the Port Royal Railroad right of way presented greenway opportunities to create a vision and turn it into the reality of a rail trail for public use and recreation.

At the same time, shouldn’t we ask why the city would continue to own and maintain Wilson Park on Ribaut Road which is used only rarely as traffic whizzes by and few even realize it is a park. Could the money from the sale of this valuable asset be used to improve Mossy Oaks Park which is in the center of the City’s largest neighborhood? Or to improve a small pocket park where children play or to create a new park in areas where the city is growing?

Funds from the sale of surplus properties will not go into the General Fund to pay for the City’s operating costs. Rather they will go into the Open Land Fund which is used for just that … creating parks, partnering with the county and the Beaufort County Open Land Trust to protect scenic vistas and ensuring that we capture and protect our natural beauty while making it user friendly for those who live here and those who visit us.

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Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the Commerce Park

1. How much land is available at the Commerce Park?

The Commerce Park includes 167 acres of which about 135 are buildable. The remaining 32 acres of wetlands are also marketable as they can be used to meet open space requirements for respective businesses that choose to settle in the park.

2. Are all utilities in place?

Yes, the Commerce Park is served with electricity, water, sewer, natural gas and environmentally approved and constructed storm water management system.

3. Is this a done deal, created in a back room by City Council with the public being kept out of the process?

No. While the City Council has the authority to authorize the City Manager to sign a purchase and sale contract, Council chose to go the ordinance route which started with a presentation to Council and the public at a Work Session where votes are not taken. This will be followed by the required two readings at which time the public will have an opportunity to learn the facts, ask questions and make recommendations.

4. Where is the property located relative to interstate highways and ports?

The Commerce Park is located off U.S. Highway 21, almost midway between the ports of Charleston and Savannah, about 12 miles east of U.S. 17 and about 18 miles from I-95. The site is located essentially across US 21from the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort and its soon-to-arrive F-35 Joint Strike Fighter squadrons and high-tech training center. The Commerce Park is also situated an hour and fifteen minutes from Boeing in Charleston and 45 minutes from Gulfstream in Savannah. Lockheed Martin will be moving to the area to support the JSF and authorities say that some of their suppliers and vendors are likely to follow. According to a high level aeronautics official, one could not find a more centrally convenient location for aeronautics supply chain operations than this Commerce Park.

5. What are the advantages of the Commerce Park being annexed into the City of Beaufort?

When annexed, the land will be subject to Beaufort’s planning and development requirements and compacted development processes. The City will institute internal rules that all necessary permitting is ready for consideration and approval within 30 days of a business submitting a complete application – addressing an oft-voiced complaint about bureaucratic roadblocks to new businesses. While we don’t control other permitting agencies we can commit to a speedy City process.

6. If high-tech companies want to locate at the Commerce Park, they won’t wait 10 years for a trained workforce to develop. What are the short-term plans to provide skilled workers?

Over the past nine months, city officials and private professionals have been working to establish the Transition Work Force Education Assistance Collaboration, an organization which will include the Beaufort County School District, the Technical College of the Lowcountry and USCB, which has brought the USC School of Engineering and Computing and the McNair Center for Aerospace to the table. By harnessing the expertise of each of these organizations working in collaboration, TWEAC’s mission is to train future employees with specific skills for specific jobs for which there currently aren’t workers with necessary skills. In Beaufort’s three military installations, we have a large and untapped economic development asset in the disciplined, focused and experienced Marines and Sailors who, with appropriate training, can provide a workforce unlike any other. TWEAC will engage in the transition from the service to the private sector process offered to all leaving the service. In some cases, we hope to start training while they are still on active duty.

7. Will all of the jobs be high tech opportunities for which members of the community will not be qualified?

No! We anticipate a variety of job opportunities with varying skill sets and anticipate salaries will range from an average of $14 per hour plus insurance ($3 an hour value) to considerably higher salaries for more highly skilled positions.

8. Will you target only Southeastern firms, US firms, or international firms?

Based on the capacity of the Park, and a desire to create a diverse workforce, we anticipate small to medium sized businesses based on clean industries. This would suggest 50 to 600 employees. Recent studies indicate our area is likely best suited to healthcare, aerospace, logistics/supply chain and environment technology-oriented businesses.

9. How much will sites cost?

The 167 acres at the Commerce Park can be configured to specific business needs and prices will be negotiated on a case by case basis. We hope to work in tandem with the SC Department of Commerce and Beaufort County Council to satisfy requirements for competitive incentives such as land and site development costs based on the number of jobs, the company’s capital investment and other criteria as set forth by the SCDOC.

10. Is there a timeframe to build?

Infrastructure is already in place and the Commerce Park is ready to accept new businesses immediately.

11. Are there a minimum number of jobs required for businesses interested in the Commerce Park?

The Park is most suitable for seeking businesses that provide 50-600 jobs. It is also good to note that many incentives kick in for companies that create a minimum of 10 new employees and $2.5 million in capital investment over a five-year period.

12. Does the City get any money from the proceeds of a future sale?

Should a business buy land at the Commerce Park and eventually decide to sell, deed restrictions that protect the taxpayers’ investment are likely to be included in the terms of the sale. The City’s intent is to, over time, recover the cost of land purchase, closing costs and legal fees through the generation of new income and taxes that will multiply throughout our economy with the addition of new businesses and new jobs

13. Will there be a written, streamlined permitting process?

The City already has a streamlined process that can move a project through at the staff level, which will guarantee completed applications that meet, health, safety and environmental requirements are approved within 30 days. While the City does not control some permitting, the City will be an active advocate for state and federal approvals if necessary.

14. Have any specific businesses indicated a willingness to take advantage of this?

Yes. Beaufort City leaders are in conversation with three businesses exploring locating in the Commerce Park or elsewhere in the Beaufort area. While these discussions remain confidential at this time, which is normally the case in competitive situations among private businesses, the potential is 800 new jobs. That being said, we will be competing with other states and other cities that have extraordinarily generous incentives for locating new businesses to their areas.

15. Will this opportunity be available to local, existing businesses looking to expand?

Yes. The City encourages local and nearby existing businesses to consider the Commerce Park for expansion opportunities.

16. What are the other possible uses for the City’s land acquisition funds, such as pay down debt, install a day dock or build a parking facility?

The land acquisition fund, created many years ago, is a percentage set aside from the annual fund balance. Thus far, the fund has been used to participate along with Beaufort County and the Open Land Trust to purchase scenic vistas along Boundary Street and Highway 21 on Lady’s Island as well The Green on The Point in downtown Beaufort and the site for the new city complex. Funds are not restricted to these uses. Furthermore, as the city has inventoried existing land holdings, the fund will be enhanced over time when the City sells some of the underutilized land assets.

17. Why is the City competing with private businesses?

The City is not competing with private business. If private investors were interested, they would have purchased the park when it became available months ago. This is the only Park of its kind in Northern Beaufort County. That said, there is other industrial zoned, privately held property in Northern Beaufort County (Dale and Yemassee, to be specific) that will be marketed to prospects which are not appropriate for the improved park and those that have specific desires not to be in the Park. Since 2009, Beaufort leaders have worked with the community to create a new vision for the City’s future through a transparent Civic Master Planning process. The City Council and Beaufort Redevelopment Commission are working to revitalize Beaufort’s economy and already have seen successes including attracting Lowcountry Produce to renovate the former Post Office and old City Hall on Carteret Street as well as the MidTown Square residential project. The Commerce Park, once annexed into the City, provides a unique opportunity for further economic growth. Beaufort leaders are putting in place a Transition Workforce Education Assistance Collaboration (TWEAC) that brings together local K-12 and higher education to address high-tech and other workforce needs. At the same time, Beaufort is in talks with the Marine Corps to find ways to help retiring Marines find jobs that take advantage of their skills, especially those in aerospace and avionics.

18. Why does the City think it can do a better job with the Commerce Park than has been done in past years?

The reason there are three prospects looking at the Park today is because infrastructure was constructed into the property and the Alliance never stopped selling it. And now, the City of Beaufort is making it possible to have the chance to take a prospect to the “deal making” stage. The timing of the property is right because the market is returning and folks are looking to invest. It is important that we understand as a community that this is not a process of “instant gratification.” This is a long-term investment that will slowly, over time, yield returns. “This is the right thing to do, at the right time in our City’s regrowth and renewal,” Mayor Keyserling told the City Council March 20. “This is our next step in City Building. Together, we can make this work. Together, we can help build a better Beaufort, now and for the future.”

19. What is the role of the failed “Lowcountry Economic Network” and how is it different from the “Lowcountry Economic Alliance”?

While some of the participants, including the City, supported the LEN, the two organizations are not the same. The S.C. Secretary of Commerce is committed to working through the Lowcountry Alliance. He made it very clear, when he spoke through the Greater Beaufort Chamber of Commerce, that it is difficult to send prospects to communities that have no place to locate new industry or in communities that will not match state investment in such. The two new companies that settled in Jasper County settled there largely because there were suitable available buildings which Beaufort County does not have. Alliance staff extensively searched for buildings in Beaufort County but we did not have any that were suitable. While local officials have been actively participating in the courtship of new businesses, Alliance staff have taken them to Columbia and assisted in developing the paperwork required to compete for state and county investment in infrastructure and site improvements. That being said, City Council does not expect any one group to do all of our work and is, therefore, prepared to become actively engaged in courting and recruiting jobs to the area regardless of the unresolved issues within the alliance.

20. Why is the City going to spend money to bring new jobs when it does so little to help struggling, existing businesses survive and grow?

First, it isn’t true that the City hasn’t been supportive of local businesses. Years ago the City created a loan pool to help small businesses grow, but not one business applied. More recently, between the $1 million a year to pay for debt service on The Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park rehabilitation and maintenance efforts to maintain and beautify the downtown, plus the investment of about $550,000 a year of ATAX funds by the City and County Council, just under 10 percent of the City’s budget has been invested annually in supporting efforts to bring people to Beaufort to visit and hopefully consider locating here. After serious consideration Council has determined, based on a study commissioned by the Redevelopment Commission, that Beaufort has more retail capacity and restaurants than our population can support. By bringing better paying jobs to the area, giving families more disposable income, retail and dining venues will have more customers. We’ll hopefully be able to expand the retail mix so there will be consumers for more goods and services and we will not be solely dependent upon tourists — which is good business, but not the only business we should rely on.

21. What will the City pay for the Park?

While the council has not yet formally considered the Mayor’s proposal, and contract negotiations must be kept quiet initially, one can say that the amount proposed by the Mayor is less than the Banks paid for the property at foreclosure. The purchase price is likely lower that the dollars invested to install the infrastructure that puts the park in a “ready to go” position without additional City investment.

22. How do we define success with the Beaufort Commerce Park?

First, success comes in owning and protecting the purpose of the property. Having an industrial park for existing business and new businesses is key to our diversification strategy. Second, success can be defined by the ability of the Park to meet the needs of the business community. While we know it will not be a fit for all business types, are we attracting business interest? Do we have prospects looking? So, it’s about our ability to be “in the hunt,” so to speak. And finally, are we able to assist businesses to grow and create jobs? Have we met our public purpose in fostering job creation on this property?The timetable for success cannot be measured in neat campaign cycles. It will come as the market allows it to and our ability to adapt to market changes on this property and in our community. So, it’s important we understand we are in this for the long haul and will keep the public informed as we work toward our goals.

 

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Strong neighborhood engagement makes our city even better

By Billy Keyserling

Cities are a collection of diverse neighborhoods, each with its own character, that make the city whole and diverse.
One of dreams has been to see a few small neighborhood associations become vibrant while encouraged neighborhood associations to come together in neighborhoods that were not organized.
Among the many goals of such associations is to work hand in hand with the city to make their neighborhoods, hence our hometown, an even better place to live, work and visit.
Over the past three years, we have seen a proliferation of Neighborhood Associations, each growing and working harder to keep clean and improve their neighborhoods.
As some will remember,  last year volunteers from Beaufort’s neighborhood associations collected more than 400 tons of trash throughout the city.  Not only did they make the city cleaner, they reduced fire hazards exponentially.
More recently, a handful of members of the Point Association launched Beautify Beaufort which will hopefully, this Spring, spread throughout the city with residents repainting rusting fire hydrants and cleaning the mildew from Street Signs.
Leaders from neighborhoods meet monthly with the City Neighborhood Improvement Team which includes the police and fire chiefs, the directors of the Planning and Public Works Departments, Codes Enforcement, the Greenery and Waste Pro, among other city staff assigned to support our neighborhoods.
The Pigeon Point Example
Several years ago, when the restoration of Pigeon Point Park came in considerably over budget, the Neighborhood Association, started as a Crime Watch, raised funds and contributed manual labor to ensure that some features the city could not afford were included in making the park what it is today.
Taking the engagement to the next level, they have scheduled a big fundraiser for the park which is being promoted as Touch-A-Truck & Make A Memory Brick Sale, April 2 from 9 a.m. to noon.
All sorts of large trucks used by the city will be lined up in the park for children to explore. Picture opportunities will abound to “Make A Memory” and donated cookies and drinks will be served.
Opportunities to buy bricks,  which can be inscribed with dedications,  will be available for purchase through the “Make A Memory” brick sale and later find their permanent home on the walkways in the park.
Furthermore, if you and your neighbors are interested in strengthening your organization or starting your own, you may want to attend to the Pigeon Point Association meetings at the Planning Department’s Conference Room on the main floor of City Hall.

CITY OF BEAUFORT ACTIVITIES

Bladen and North Street Redevelopment
After years of planning, phase II of Bladen Street Redevelopment is under way. This means new and wider sidewalks, burying utilities, tree scape, new paving, additional on street parking and cross walks making the area more pedestrian friendly. Once Bladen is completed, SCDOT will transform the block of North Street, between Bladen and Adventure, one way going west, paving it with brick (as it used to be before the old brick was covered by asphalt), underground utilities, a wider sidewalk and an expansion of “Horse Trough Park” making it a neighborhood destination, with additional parking and safer better marked cross walks.

Beautifying Beaufort
Thanks to Paul Michaud and Peter and Terry Hussey, who live in The Point neighborhood, for taking the initiative to launch a volunteer drive Beautify Beaufort Initiative which began by painting fire hydrants and cleaning street signs in the downtown area. I am hopeful that the other neighborhoods participating in the City’s Neighborhood Improvement Team will embrace this initiative so it can become city wide.

More Parking on Carteret Street
With a few more long-awaited approvals from SCDOT, the city will be outlining additional parking spaces on Carteret Street. Pending approval for encroachment on the street, I believe there will be at least seven additional parking spaces between Bay and King streets.

Boundary Street Redevelopment
After years in planning, the engineers are completing the plan for Highway 21 (now 21 Business) Redevelopment from a newly configured intersection of S.C. 170 and Boundary Street to City Hall including several blocks of a parallel road north of Boundary. The project includes burying overhead utility lines, a multi-modal path along the water side of Boundary, the redevelopment of a traditional shopping center into a grid which will allow for a more walkable, safer and denser mixed use area of the city.  Planted medians and other traffic calming effects will be central to the project.

Highway 21/Highway 21 Business
After more than eight years, the long-awaited resignation of Highway 21 around the city, with 21 Business going through the city, is in place. SCDOT planted the new signs within the past two weeks and we are hoping that mapping and GPS systems will pick this up so that those going to the islands will not get caught in downtown congestion while those seeking Beaufort as their destination will also find it easier to get into town due to reduced congestion.

“City Building”
The City Council and City Redevelopment Commission had our respective annual retreats (at USCB Historic Campus on Carteret Street) in February. The mission for both was to transition from planning to doing. With the majority of the civic master plan completed, it is time to start marketing the revitalization of the greater downtown area to property owners, investors and developers under the soon-to-be-adopted form-based code which should make the development process more predictable and hopefully more streamlined while still protecting the historic and cultural character which make Beaufort so special.
As “the rubber hits the road” there will be necessary conversations among neighbors, adjoining property owners, planners and regulators on how to best accomplish this noble challenge of revitalizing our city. Please join in the conversation as we seek to make changes and do us a favor by maintaining civility in our conversations as we learn new ways of doing things.

Marketing Beaufort
As those who have followed the conversation about marketing Beaufort and the allocation of tourism dollars generated by the Accommodations Tax know, City Council has been working on ways to make sure the dollars are used most efficiently, in a coordinated manner and focused on the same goals for building our city into what it can be. Given we are too small to be simply a tourism destination, and the fact that many who do not want us to be such, we are asking questions about what is it that we should actually marketing. Are we trying to attract new residents? Are we reaching out to find investment to fund some of the exciting concepts outlined in the Civic Master Plan? Do we consider recruiting businesses, which will provide better opportunities for those who grow up here and more here? Should the number of heads in beds, tour bus visits, carriage rides and seats filled in restaurants be the sole indicator of the kind of growth we are seeking? These are important questions we need to be considering. Accordingly, we convened a marketing summit last month which included not only the usual suspects but the marketers of new communities, nature based tourism businesses including boating, fishing, kayaking, golf and tennis to the table along with residential home builders, economic developers and the broader business community. The goal is to give our marketers are clearer set of criteria for the investment of public dollars with a meaningful set of metrics by which we can measure our collective success.

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