TO THE EDITOR:
The Town of Beaufort has before it a proposal for a Planned Unit Development (PUD) called "Shackleford Landing" which could represent the single largest alteration of the town's character in its 300-year history. Remarkably, there has been very little publicity about this radical change. Residents of our Howland Rock neighborhood, which adjoins the proposed development, had to go digging to find out basic information. The town should have gone out of its way to give people in the surrounding area ample advance notice that something like this was in the works. But it did not.
Shackleford Landing proposes to put 400 dwellings on an 85-acre tract behind the Tiller School on Live Oak Street. The land adjoins Gibbs Creek, a vital fragile watershed off the North River. The town's 2006 CAMA Land Use Plan stated that this land should be restricted to low-density housing, which is to say two dwellings per acre.
The Shackleford request for PUD rezoning, which would entail annexation by Beaufort, is scheduled to be heard by the Planning Board on Sept. 20. The timing could not possibly be worse. The town is midway through an elaborate and expensive process of developing a new Unified Development Ordinance, which will be the guide for land use decisions for years to come. The Planning Board and Commissioners will not adopt that long-range plan until the end of the year. To approve such an extreme departure from the past - "a town within a town" according to the new developers - without even having finished work on the new land-use plan, would be reckless, to say the least.
Our neighborhood is not anti-development. We recognize that the land in question will be developed in some fashion at some point. We understand that new concepts of residential development are gaining favor and that municipal water & sewer service is good for the environment. But the idea of expanding Beaufort's population by 20% in a relatively small, environmentally sensitive piece of land - well, it certainly deserves far more reflection and discussion than has yet been permitted in this case.
We urge the Beaufort Planning Board and Commissioners to slow down and let the planning process proceed in an orderly fashion. The Shackleford Landing PUD application should be tabled in the meantime. A developer should not drive the public agenda for the Town of Beaufort.