BEAUFORT — A handful of residents questioned town commissioners’ decision Monday night to make the western end of Cedar Street a mixed-use district.
The unanimous decision came after a public hearing during commissioners’ regular session at the Broad Street train depot. The decision, according to Planning Director Kyle Garner, is the culmination of more than a year of work.
The mixed-use district establishes a number of zoning regulations for the Cedar Street corridor that would allow for businesses and residential properties. The district includes the portion of Cedar Street between the intersections of Turner Street and Hedrick Lane.
“The purpose of this district is to protect, enhance and guide the redevelopment of the Cedar Street corridor by reducing visual clutter through the implementation of commercial design standards and selecting the appropriate type of uses for this district,” reads a portion of information staff provided. “These standards are designed to improve the aesthetics, traffic congestion and provide for a solid and vibrant tax base as well as promote the public health, safety and welfare of the town.”
A number of Beaufort residents, some of whom own property along Cedar Street, said they questioned the board’s decision.
“I hear a lot about zoning … but I’m kind of lost because I was looking for a little bit more than that,” Beaufort resident Margaret Powell said. “There is so much more that is involved here that needs to be (addressed) by a committee with some people in the community.”
Ms. Powell said she doesn’t live on Cedar Street, but her childhood home was there. Thomas Johnson, another speaker, owns property in the now mixed-use district.
“My concerns is, first off, why,” Mr. Johnson said.
Mr. Johnson, Ms. Powell and others said the town could have been more open in their process. Mr. Garner pushed back against that particular accusation, reiterating the plans include public input taken from different occasions.
“I would say this was a very engaged (process),” Mr. Garner said. “I would say this was not done in the backroom, there was a lot of citizen participation.”
While the idea of a mixed-use district dates back to the town’s 2006 Coastal Area Management Act Land Use Plan, work on the mixed-use plan started in early 2018. The town’s planning board spent its June 6 special meeting and June 13 regular session hashing out the particulars.
“I think it’s important for folks to realize that a lot of the comments that were taken from the citizens at that meeting were also incorporated in the overall text,” Mr. Garner said.
Those comments included concerns about a mixed-use district that would allow things like microbreweries next to churches. This is one of the things the planning board spoke, at length, about during its workshop. They eventually decided to strike microbreweries from the list of permitted uses.
“The planning board heard that and said, ‘We understand where they’re coming from,’” Mr. Garner said, Monday. “Rather than just making it a permitted use, why not make it special use.”
Special uses require public hearings and require town commissioner approval.
Some permitted uses include convenience stores, hotels or motels, parks and religious institutions, among others. Special uses include taverns, pubs, bars, microbreweries and commercial uses that result in a building larger than 15,000 square feet.
The Planning Board voted during its June 13 meeting to suggest the town adopt the mixed-use plan.
Since then, Carteret County staff suggested that an amendment be added to exempt government buildings from the mixed-use zone’s building standards.
“(Town) staff recommends against adopting the language proposed by County Administration,” reads information provided by town staff. “Any exemptions weaken the district and open the door to additional exemptions.”
Contact Dean-Paul Stephens at 252-726-7081, ext. 232; email Dean@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @DeanPEStephens