By Sally Mahan
After months of citizen activism, plans for a huge new development in Northern Beaufort County were ditched after a 6-0 “no” vote by the Metropolitan Planning Commission on Nov. 13.
Now, the developers are going to come back to the commission on Monday, Feb. 19, with a revised plan that a local activist organization calls “vastly improved.”
The revised proposal is expected to be filed with the city of Beaufort’s Planning Department around Thursday, Feb. 1.
The 19-acre parcel, called Whitehall, is at the foot of the Richard V. Woods Memorial Bridge on Lady’s Island and has been a source of contention as locals have expressed concerns about traffic, trees, the environment and the development in general.
MidCity Real Estate Partners of Atlanta owns the property but has been working with Sam Levin of Beaufort and other partners as the Whitehall Development Group.
The Whitehall plan that was voted down would have been a mix of commercial/retail space along the Sea Island Parkway, with apartments and an independent living facility in the interior of the property.
Five stand-alone commercial buildings ranging in size from approximately 2,000 square feet to 6,000 square feet, and seven residential apartment towers – each four stories high – were planned.
A smaller structure would have served as a space for offices, pool support and resident storage for bicycles, etc.
Another structure in the original plan was a 100-unit independent living facility built as part of the property but managed by an outside firm.
Chuck Newton of the Sea Island Coalition, which has been actively involved in the Whitehall process, said, “We did see a revised conceptual plan for Whitehall a couple of weeks ago. … We would characterize it as ‘vastly improved.’
“The most striking change is the elimination of the seven oversize apartment ‘towers’ initially presented. That being said, apartments are not the dominant structures in the residential elements of the new plan, but are there alongside some single-family homes, townhomes and ‘cottages.’
“The retail/commercial element in the plan is largely similar to the first proposal, setting aside a portion of the property along the parkway. We are encouraging the developers to integrate it more tightly into development; right now, and our reading of the Civic Master Plan, suggests the intent was to have retail/commercial activities integrated with housing components, not established as a ‘separate neighborhood.’ ”
Newton said the proposed independent living (not assisted living) facility remains part of the plan, but has been relocated in the new conceptual plan to the center of the property versus being tucked away in a corner.
Several concerns remain however. They include ensuring that any roofline stays below the canopy; density; inclusion of a “main street” abutting the commercial/retail areas; and the need for a new traffic study, said Newton.
The Metropolitan Planning Commission will meet at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 19, at City Hall at 1911 Boundary St. in Beaufort.