Protection, not prohibition

Published 12:21 am Thursday, September 13, 2007

By Staff
With The Rembrey project changing from high-rise condominiums to single-family residences, many people in Beaufort County likely are experiencing relief.
The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners could provide them with even more relief by putting in place some land-use guidelines that would help prevent unwanted development from occurring in the county. It’s no secret that Beaufort County commissioners, as a whole, aren’t too keen on enacting zoning districts and zoning regulations.
The proposed project to build two high-rise towers — that would contain condominiums — on the former Whichard’s Beach property was viewed by many people as a sign of development pressures the county faces and will continue to face in coming years. Because the county has no zoning regulations, developers face few restrictions when it comes to developing their properties.
As the property owner was within his rights to build the 13-story buildings by following existing regulations and building codes, so were area residents within their rights to question if that project was right for that location.
About a year ago, upset with the proposed project on the former Whichard’s Beach property, several county residents and groups went before the county commissioners and asked them to establish some form of land-use controls. They said then, as they continue to say now, that it’s a shame the county has no rules and guidelines in place to prevent unwanted, improper development in the county.
As some county residents have said before — and likely will continue saying until something is done — with more and more commercial and residential development coming to the county, having regulations in place to help manage that growth makes sense. As more and more of the prime waterfront properties in the county are developed or face pressure to be developed, something must be done to ensure there’s a balance between protecting the county’s rural nature and increased growth and development.
The Beaufort County Planning Board, from its actions and attitudes in the past year or so, indicates it believes the time has come for some form of land-use guidelines in the county, other than the existing subdivision ordinance and Coastal Area Management Act rules.
County government should view land-use guidelines — controls, if you will — as protection and preservation, not prohibition and prevention when it comes to land use and development. People should have the right to use their land. Their neighbors should have some assurances that land use doesn’t lessen the value of their adjacent land or prohibit them from using their land.
Yes, restrictions on property use do go against the idea — which many Americans have — of being able to do what one wants with his or her property. But how would that person feel if after he or she built an inn in the country, a neighbor built a slaughterhouse and stockyard?
There is no perfect solution when it comes to land-use guidelines and making all property owners happy. The county does need a solution that protects property owners’ rights but at the same time protects the county from unwanted, inappropriate development.
It’s the commissioners’ job to find the solution that protects property owners and the county. The county’s Planning Board can help commissioners find that solution.
About a year ago, Commissioner Stan Deatherage said development could be good for the county because it would increase the county’s tax base. Commissioner Hood Richardson said implementing land-use controls could slow or stop development some county residents believe is needed to help the county grow and prosper.
Doing nothing about land use could damage that tax base.
At a commissioners’ meeting a year ago, Deatherage said people asking for land-use controls should “be careful what you ask for.”
That’s the point. Some people are asking for land-use controls. Their voices deserve to be heard. And the things those voices are asking for deserve a fair and meaningful review by the county.