Lady’s Island future development
Lady’s island is a beautiful 13,000-acre island experiencing rapid growth. It could be a connected community where residents can live, work and play. To accomplish this, we believe future development should be compact and include a mix of land uses, transportation should be connected and include infrastructure for bicyclists and pedestrians, and that open space along the waterfront and rural areas should be valued. To promote these planning concepts, the Lady’s Island Plan was formed to guide responsible growth measures on Lady’s Island in 2018 and was formally adopted by the City of Beaufort, the Town of Port Royal, and Beaufort County in 2019. Read on for updates from major components and, at the bottom, for an overview of the plan.
Transportation Updates: In 2018, a Beaufort County penny sales tax allocated $30 million for numerous projects along the U.S. Highway 21/S.C. Highway 802 corridor to improve traffic conditions, including nine in the Lady’s Island corridor that were developed as part of the 2017 Lady’s Island Corridor Study. You can learn more about this and other county taxpayer-funded projects here. We need to make sure improvements are consistent with the Lady’s Island Plan, which seeks to create connections that tie people and places together while retaining the island’s character and sense of place. One of the principal transportation goals to achieve that vision is an interconnected network of streets to relieve pressure along the main corridors, coupled with multi-modal pathways to increase opportunities for bike and pedestrian access and public transit. We support the road improvements that facilitate those goals.
In early 2021, County engineers began to engage the public, collecting comments, suggestions, and ideas for transportation improvements on Lady’s Island. The County has broken down the numerous projects into two groups – the Mainline corridor projects and the access roads projects. Road improvement designs will be rolling out in the coming months, so stay tuned for more updates.
Resilience Planning Updates: Three resilience initiatives were born of the Lady’s Island Plan that promote responsible growth and improve the resilience of future infrastructure. The City of Beaufort, the Town of Port Royal, and Beaufort County have all committed to adopting the below initiatives. Once complete, the City of Beaufort will tighten their Urban Growth Boundary on Highway 21 to prevent urban development from creeping into rural St. Helena.
- ADOPTED by Beaufort County 2020! Reducing septic in large subdivisions: The Lady’s Island plan encourages policies that prevent subdivision growth from outpacing public utilities. With no requirement to tap into public water and sewer in place on Lady’s Island, large housing developments could be developed in the far-flung reaches of the island, promoting sprawl and destroying habitat. The “septic ordinance” limits where new large housing developments can be placed by requiring them to tap into available sewer utilities, encouraging siting to be near urban centers where the utility is already available. In addition, limiting the reliance on septic tanks will promote environmental health by reducing the number of septic tanks installed countywide.
- ADOPTED by City of Beaufort in 2021! Limiting the use of fill dirt: A destructive strategy that allows for quick and dirty development in our lowest lying areas, which are inherently and naturally prone to flooding, is to import large quantities of fill dirt to build the land up out of the floodplain. While the practice in and of itself is problematic, because it kills trees, encourages clear cutting, shifts flooding issues to neighboring properties, and increases stormwater runoff, it contributes to another issue impacting our coastal plain – rampant sand-mining.Since 2019, the Coastal Conservation League has been working with a diverse group of stakeholders and City, County, and Town planners to develop limitations on fill for our lowest areas – those lands in the 100-year flood plain or at or below 10ft above sea level. The “fill ordinance” would limit the amount of fill dirt to the areas beneath structures and driveway access and will otherwise limit the total amount of fill for large lots to 33%.The intent of the ordinance is to encourage responsible and resilient development in the floodplain by siting infrastructure on the highest portion of parcels and/or utilizing alternative methods of raising infrastructure out of the floodplain, like stilts. Not only will this benefit the environment and surrounding properties, but it will also create a better investment for future property owners and businesses utilizing the development. In 2021, this ordinance was adopted by the City of Beaufort. The Town of Port Royal will soon adopt it and we are hopeful it will be adopted by the County by year’s end.
- Implementing educational flood plain disclosures: 2020 introduced a new world issue – the Covid-19 pandemic. Among the many consequences of the pandemic was a massive flight from cities to suburbs and rural areas, including Beaufort County. Many homes were purchased site-unseen. In the coastal plain, that means many new property owners found themselves suddenly situated in the floodplain and at the highest risk for the impacts of climate change. Even those of us who have been in the coastal plain for generations can find it difficult to understand if a new property is located in the floodplain or not and what that means for the future of the property.In conjunction with a County-led Sea Level Rise Task Force, we worked with a diverse group of stakeholders to develop the Coastal Resilience Overlay. This overlay is a zoning mechanism that would require real estate transactions for properties located in the 100-year floodplain, or at or below 10ft above sea level, to incorporate a disclosure statement to be signed by the buyer. The intent is to provide an additional educational tool to inform property buyers of the real-life risks of living in the Lowcountry in the face of increasing and intensifying climate change and sea level rise. Port Royal will soon adopt this measure and we are hopeful that the City and the County will follow suit by year’s end.
Village Master Plan Updates: One of the goals of the Lady’s Island Plan is to create a walkable, bike-able, multi-use, village center of the island that maintains the character and sense of place of the Highway 21 corridor. A task force was formed in 2020 to advocate for a Village Center Master Plan, like the one developed for Boundary Street, and ensure that we are working in lock-step with the City, Town and County as transportation improvements move forward. We are still in the early stages of this process, so stay tuned for more updates.
The History of Designing Lady’s Island: In February 2017, we co-hosted a forum “Designing a Future for Lady’s Island” with the Sea Island Corridor Coalition. Over 400 residents joined us to discuss the future of our community. Using feedback from the forum, we worked with our partners, the City of Beaufort, the City of Port Royal, and Beaufort County to develop and adopt the Lady’s Island Plan in 2019. This plan provides guidance for responsible growth on Lady’s Island and incorporates an itemized matrix for getting there.
Since then, the Lady’s Island Plan Implementation Committee and the Lady’s Island Village Master Plan task force were formed to implement the actionable in the items and ensure it didn’t become another plan “on the shelf” collecting dust. The Coastal Conservation League and the Sea Island Corridor Coalition are active members in both groups.
This type of participatory, proactive visioning unifies all of us around a common goal: To create a stronger future for our community that honors our unique pride of place. By agreeing where we want to be, we can effectively preempt ill-conceived development in the future.
- Inspired Development: Inspired, functional patterns of development within the developed areas of Lady’s Island that support small businesses, new residents and community interaction.
Connected Transportation: An integrated transportation network that includes bicycles, pedestrians and cars and allows for future public transit.
- Character Enhancement: Retention of the island’s character and support that advances a vibrant rural community with healthy farms, wetlands and waterways.
Sunlight & Predictability: A fully transparent, predictable development process and plan for future growth that is collaborative across jurisdictional boundaries.
- Community Involvement: A concerned, educated and engaged citizenry that works toward solutions alongside experts and elected officials