Published 6:42 am Monday, February 5, 2007
SUE M. NICHOLSON
Citizens for Responsible Growth
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Height restrictions are needed now
Most citizens in Beaufort County will agree that we live in one of the most beautiful and pristine regions on the eastern coast of North America. Not only do we enjoy the scenic beauty that surrounds us, but also water activities such as fishing, boating and water skiing. In addition, we are fortunate to have the oldest town in North Carolina, historic Bath. It is our responsibility to not only preserve our history but also the natural beauty of our county.
Currently, Beaufort County is enjoying unusual popularity and becoming a favorite destination for homeowners, businesses and developers from all over the nation. This popularity is a result of a combination of factors such as a visual and historic heritage that dates back to Colonial America, a climate that features mild winters, four distinct seasons with long lazy summers and a Southern charm that is characteristic of Savannah and Charleston yet much more intimate.
The vast recreational resources and beauty of the Pamlico and Pungo Rivers are famous. Astute developers are recognizing that eastern North Carolina and Beaufort County in particular are ripe with opportunity for development. They recognize that the area welcomes well-planned, traditional developments consistent with the history, natural beauty and rich Southern culture that have become our trademark.
It only seems logical that these very characteristics which have served to attract homeowners, developers and businesses, be preserved and protected. Restrictions on building heights to ensure consistency with our treescape and those structures already standing along our shorelines and in our historic areas seem to make the most logical sense in terms of preserving and encouraging continued development for years to come.
Beaufort County is one of 20 coastal counties in North Carolina. Of significance, our county has the most shoreline of all of them. Each of these counties is experiencing significant coastal developmental pressure. Currently, 16 of the coastal counties have height restrictions and two other counties are in the process of developing regulations. Of these 20 coastal counties, only Gates County and Beaufort County lack height restrictions and are not actively pursuing them.
County citizens are concerned that the Beaufort County government is exposing the population to unmanaged growth which may result in development that is not compatible with our natural beauty, history and quality of life. Another concern of property owners is that uncontrolled growth will devalue their investments in their own homes and property.
Citizens for Responsible Growth suggests, at the earliest opportunity, that the Beaufort County Commissioners pursue establishing appropriate height restrictions either countywide or along specific corridors (e.g. waterway) by requesting our planning board to develop applicable ordinances. Information to include when considering this action are two important facts: 75 percent of the coastal counties with height restrictions have set a maximum height for construction for dwelling purpose at 35 feet in order to provide adequate fire protection; and a forestry expert has stated that the average height of a 30-year-old pine tree in the coastal area is 60 to 65 feet.
This request for immediate action is supported by a petition with nearly 600 signatures from Beaufort County citizens as well as resolutions from the Chamber of Commerce, the Beaufort County Board of Realtors, the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation and the Cypress Landing Homeowner’s Association.
It is clear that the Beaufort County Commissioners must take charge of managing growth in a responsible way. If no action is taken, Beaufort County will remain one of only two coastal counties without height restrictions; hence, we will become the mecca of high rise development. Hopefully, city and county officials will jointly pursue the development of appropriate height restrictions throughout our municipalities and county. Thus, all citizens in Beaufort County can benefit from responsible growth and development, both now and in the future.