BEAUFORT — Plans for the proposed hotel at the corner of Orange and Cedar streets are moving forward to the town commissionfollowing the town planning board’s split decision to tentatively approve the most recent design plans.
The 3-2 decision, with board members Ralph Merrill and John Cartner casting the dissenting votes, came during the planning board’s Monday regular session at the Old Beaufort Elementary School cafeteria building on Mulberry Street.
“There are 12 different pages that go along with the plan,” Beaufort Planning and Inspections Director Kyle Garner said of the design plans for the Compass hotel. The town’s board of commissioners is set to review the plans next month.
The board changed meeting venues to accommodate the number of residents interested in the project. Since first being publicly announced to town commissioners during their March retreat, the project has been a source of consternation for some in the community.
“I am totally surrounded by this (hotel),” Beaufort resident and property owner John Flowers said.
While the initial issue with the hotel had to do with height concerns, some residents have taken umbrage with other design aspects, such as parking and plans to manage stormwater runoff.
Before residents took to the podium for public comment Monday, Mr. Garner gave board members an update on the current plans, which were reviewed by staff.
“This plan has been reviewed by our town staff and found to be compliant,” Mr. Garner said.
Despite this, members of the planning board had trouble reaching a consensus.
The initial motion to approve the design plans failed after not garnering a second. After some deliberation, Mr. Cartner’s motion to deny the plan failed in a 2-3 vote, with board members Ryan Neve, Paula Gillikin and Diane Meelheim casting the dissenting votes.
The third and final motion was to recommend approval for the current plans, pending a few caveats. Those included conditions and recommendations that the N.C. Department of Transportation agree to relinquish the Cedar Street right-of-way to the hotel developers, the adjacent marina, owned by the developers, is brought up to current Land Development Ordinance standards, the Orange Street parking area be entrance only, the lighting include shoebox fixtures to reduce light pollution and that the town receive another opinion on stormwater impacts to the surrounding community.
Board members identified the stipulations after listening to the public’s reaction to project details provided by staff.
“(The) parking requirement for the hotel is 85 spaces, per the ordinance, and the marina is 15,” Mr. Garner said. “Yes there are public parking spaces along Orange and Cedar (streets), for general public use and are not tied for any specific use.”
A few residents took issue with the parking plans.
“Many of the people who live on Orange Street have no on-street parking,” resident Steve Mills said. “It just seems to be there is going to be a lot of excess (demand for) parking. This weekend, which was an off-season weekend, there were 19 to 25 vehicles in the marina parking lot and this is off-season. During the prime season, when everything’s going on, Orange Street is going to be a huge part of it.”
Mr. Garner also said plans for NCDOT to relinquish parts of Cedar Street would allow enough room to avoid conflicts as far as landscaping. Some residents living in the area disagreed, saying they didn’t like the idea of a six-foot fence buffering the hotel property from their own.
“You’re talking about putting a 6-foot fence by the parking lot,” resident Nancy Rains said. “You’re in the historic district, you can’t put a 6-foot fence there. If we’re going to put a 6-foot fence around parking lots, we should do it on Front Street. If you put up a 6-foot fence you are going to block … the view, we will see nothing.”
Stormwater was another point of concern.
“As far as storm water, as part of the design and review process, our staff encouraged the developer to include impervious pavement at the southern parking area in an effort to mitigate some storm water impacts on the drainage system,” Mr. Garner said.
He also mentioned a drainage basin on the southern side of the Cedar Street lot that would be surrounded by a buffer. Some residents were concerned that such a structure, if not properly maintained, could become a nuisance by harboring mosquitoes, among other things. Staff said maintenance of such a structure would ultimately fall to the state.
Opponents of the hotel made their opinions clear, with a number of residents plainly saying the hotel is too large for the area to accommodate. Town commissioners will have to field these and other complaints when they take up the matter at their November regular session.
Contact Dean-Paul Stephens at 252-726-7081, ext. 232; email Dean@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @DeanPEStephens.