BEAUFORT — In a split 3-2 vote with Commissioners Marianna Hollinshed and John Hagle dissenting, town commissioners approved site plans for a Compass hotel, pending developers meeting a number of caveats.
Town commissioners made the decision during their Monday evening meeting at the Broad Street train depot. Unlike the planning board, the commission did not take public comment on the matter.
“The site plan reviews by the planning board and the board of commissioners are not public hearing items,” Planning and Inspections Director Kyle Garner said Monday. “It is the discretion of the planning board chair and the mayor if they would like to take comments.”
The approved conditions include a request for the town Historic Preservation Commission to review the plan, particularly as it pertains to fencing and lighting, and urging project officials to consider stormwater improvements, like using pervious paving. The motion also suggests consideration for closing ingress and egress along Orange Street.
An offshoot of the Margaritaville brand of hotels, Compass hotels are designed specifically for communities of a smaller footprint. Though the size, namely the height, of the original project was initially a point of contention, developers changed the plans to coincide with the 40-foot height limit imposed by town ordinances.
Speaking with town commissioners at Monday’s meeting, Mr. Garner said the hotel is compliant now.
“A hotel is permitted use in that district,” Mr. Garner said. “The business waterfront district does allow a 40-foot structure height.”
Parking was another issue that drew public ire.
“The parking requirement for the hotel is 85 spaces, per the ordinance,” Mr. Garner said. “The marina (Town Creek Marina) has 15 spaces for a total of 108. There are public spaces along Orange Street and Cedar for the general public’s use and not tied to any specific use.”
Both the planning board and the commission identified flooding as a primary concern. Both boards urged developers to address flooding as a condition of site plan approval.
The town hired Charlotte-based consulting firm W.K. Dickson to look at the stormwater impact in the area, as well.
“We did a third-party independent analysis of the drainage for this project,” W.K. Dickson Senior project engineer Mark Senior said.
During his presentation, Mr. Senior touched on the importance of using pervious pavement to aid with drainage.
“The more area you have for infiltration, the greater (amount) of water you can get into the ground,” he said. “That would improve infiltration and reduce the amount of runoff.”
Commissioner Ann Carter asked Mr. Senior if the addition of pervious pavement and a planned infiltration pond will improve or worsen the area’s total runoff.
“I would say the total runoff should be less,” Mr. Senior said. “They are actually providing additional infiltration.”
Reading from a prepared statement, Ms. Hollinshed said she wasn’t convinced.
“I’m not tasking (project officials Beaufort Partners) with curing the flooding and I’m (not) discounting the resulting flooding from naturally occurring events, such as the hurricane,” Ms. Hollinshed said. “They can’t control that and there is no way they can.”
Mr. Senior said one of the concerns that came to light during his firm’s analysis is a lack of information pertaining to the area’s underground drainage and stormwater release infrastructure.
“One of the issues that we ran into is…there are a number of structures and culverts that exist that are underground or unknown.” Mr. Senior said. “We don’t know whether or not they have been mapped, we’re not sure, exactly, where the underground system goes to.”
Mr. Senior mentioned a pipe that leads into a Cedar Street basin and that the firm can’t tell if it is an inlet or outlet.
“As we get over following Cedar Street into the west, where it ties into Moore Street, there is a pipe that leads out…that we don’t know exactly where it ends up,” Mr. Senior said. “A pipe traveling North from Moore Street, toward Town Creek, we’re not sure exactly where it ends up.”
Commissioner John Hagle expressed some concern about this and suggested Mr. Carter’s motion be amended to include a stipulation to uncover more information on the underground drainage infrastructure.
“That’s really why we need to understand that system in terms of its capacity,” Mr. Hagle said.
Ms. Carter said though she agreed with Commissioner Hagle concerning the lack of data, she didn’t feel it was necessary to include it as a stipulation for approval.
Ms. Carter’s motion also included language asking project officials to consider the use of pervious pavement in their parking lot.
Developers will next have to meet with the HPC to seek certificates of appropriateness for a number of things.
“Parking on the south side of Cedar (Street) is within the local historic district and will need a (COA),” Mr. Garner said. “It’s not just the parking area that we are talking about, it’s the landscaping, the fencing and the lighting.”
Contact Dean-Paul Stephens at 252-726-7081, ext. 232; email Dean@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @DeanPEStephens.