Beaufort symposium

Hayden Willis, center, attends a symposium Wednesday at Beaufort Elementary School with his family where residents offer ideas concerning bicycle, pedestrian and small area planning. (Dylan Ray photo)

BEAUFORT — Residents began providing their thoughts on transportation, streetscape, connectivity and potential development this week, as officials began mining the public ahead of two forthcoming area studies.

Stantec, the firm hired by the town to produce a small area plan and a townwide bicycle and pedestrian master plan, held community meetings this week as it begins to shape the documents.

“Honestly, this is going to be a development plan that you guys come up with,” Mike Rutkowski, senior transportation planner and engineer, told a crowd that gathered in the Beaufort Elementary School cafeteria Wednesday evening for a symposium event.

The meeting included maps showcasing areas thought to be prime for redevelopment, informal polls on community needs and aesthetic preferences and an interactive session for residents to identify transportation “problem areas” and potential solutions.

Increased connectivity and transportation opportunities were key to new Mayor Rett Newton’s platform as he ran for office this fall, and the new Highway 70 bridge and bypass configuration is an opportunity, he told the crowd.

“I think we’re going to be more walkable. I think we’re going to be more bikeable. I think that we’re going to be more peaceful,” he said. “We’re going to have the opportunity to reconnect portions of the town that have been disconnected for a while.”

While the bike and pedestrian plan covers all of Beaufort, paid for with a grant from the N.C. Department of Transportation, the small area plan will hone in on a one-mile radius around the new U.S. 70 bypass project.

Together they should provide a road map with recommendations for land use, safety, mobility, multimodal transport, corridor improvements and suggestions for both redevelopment and preservation of existing neighborhoods, according to the firm.

More than 60 residents attended Wednesday’s public session, indicating their preference for things like a two- to three-story maximum building height, improved pedestrian-friendly intersections, mixed-use, walkable development, more green spaces and “coastal traditional” architecture.

The symposium provided the firm with feedback from just a subsection of Beaufort, however, with Wednesday’s crowd skewed in favor of white, retirement-age residents.

Don Sheldon, a resident of Howland Rock, which is outside the city limits, recently moved to the area and said he would like to see the return of sidewalks and infrastructure that supports a better quality of life.

“We as a country, we’ve taken (our) eye off the ball and focused on cars, we really have,” he told the News-Times, noting he was intrigued by the potential of the final recommendations.

“When we have a small vision – we’re just going to make this street a little bit better – I don’t think that changes your community. I think you need a broader vision,” Mr. Sheldon said.

A “traveling roadshow” put on by Stantec Tuesday focused on residents in the Mulberry and Pine Street neighborhoods that surround the Boys & Girls Club and compose the historically black community there.

Town officials said those residents honed in on a need to prevent those neighborhoods from becoming a cut through to Lennoxville Road and other areas when the Turner Street bridge project opens.

“The through-traffic is the big thing down there,” Commissioner Ann Carter, who attended both sessions, said Wednesday. Those residents also indicated they would like to see more sidewalks, street lighting and safer crosswalks leading out into the rest of town, she noted.

Some residents are getting behind Mayor Newton’s vision, in terms of transport, but also for what increased connectivity could offer to Beaufort’s

various communities.

“I’m just here as a property owner, a taxpayer, looking for the betterment of Beaufort for the general population…we need to connect,” resident Samuel Collins said. “There’s a white side of Beaufort and a black side of Beaufort … we all need to come together as one.”

Stantec’s public meetings will culminate in a three-day open design session this spring, where planners and engineers will be on hand designing with input from residents.

The two studies, including recommendations for town officials to consider executing, will be delivered this summer, according to Mr. Rutkowski.

Town residents can also provide feedback online by visiting and filling out the survey there.

(2) comments


We have to hire folks to tell us how to run our town? Why have elected officials at all?


The lower income areas of Beaufort will disappear, indeed. A victim of taxation and progress.

Welcome to the discussion.

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