Town of Beaufort, NC US Highway 70 Commercial Project

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1 Town of Beaufort, NC US Highway 70 Commercial Project Context The North Carolina Department of Transportation is proposing a new bridge and highway alignment that will relocate U.S. Highway 70 from its current alignment through the town further north, past the Michael J. Smith airport. U.S. Highway 70 will be a four-lane, divided highway with a median. Completion of the bridge and new highway is anticipated by January Town officials expect that the new road, once complete, will have a remarkable influence on land use patterns along this route. Specifically, the new U.S. Highway 70 is expected to open up hundreds of acres of currently undeveloped land for suburban or urban uses, in particular, commercial development. This section addresses the issues of future land use along the new U.S. Highway 70 corridor and related characteristics such as design. Zoning in the area is as follows, according to the town s zoning map. The largest amount of property in the subject area is zoned R-20 (Residential Single-Family District); this includes most of the property in the northern part of the study area and also east of the new U.S. Highway 70 right of way. There is one parcel fronting on the new U.S. Highway 70 right of way that is zoned L-I (Light Industrial District). Further south, there are large properties with frontage on both the new U.S. Highway 70 and NC Highway 101 which are zoned B-1 (General Business District) (both within and outside the town limits); another parcel on the east side of the U.S. Highway 70 right of way, but it fronts on Professional Park Drive is also zoned B-1. There is also property zoned RC-5 (Residential Cluster Development District) south of the B-1 zoned property. Vision for the Area A specific vision for this area, although not implemented officially by the Town of Beaufort, has been strongly expressed by the citizens, business owners, and city officials. Since the town contacted the Urban Planning program of East Carolina University to create and expand on a vision for the given area as a part of an undergraduate course on land use planning, the wishes and concerns of the town have been considered and implemented into this recommendation. Town officials have expressed their desires to bring recreational commercial businesses alongside the new U.S. Highway 70 development. One major fear of the town officials have is that the area will become prey to big box businesses and gas stations which will disturb the surrounding residential and institutional (public schools). Due to the historic makeup of the town of Beaufort, big box businesses that do not go coincide with the original design aesthetic will look out of place. As this area will kind of serve as a gateway into and out of Beaufort, it should provide a preview of what is to be expected down the road. 1

2 Image 1.1 GIS Existing Land Use map, Author: Eliud de Jesus According to town officials, the North Carolina Department of Transportation is using a 47-acre large near-by parcel for the fill of the U.S. Highway 70 construction project, creating a 27-acre borrow pit that will most likely be converted into a lake for recreational uses. Having the lake in this location would be an opportunity to ensure that the town attracts recreation-based businesses as opposed to big box businesses, as Walmart or a Shell gas station has very little use of a lake. 2

3 Details of the Borrow Pit Turn borrow pit into 27-acrea recreational lake Encourage water-based eco-tourism businesses Compatible with recreational commercial facilities Kayak Rentals Other Outdoor Shops Implement a walkable trail connecting to the lake and its surroundings Existence of wetland poses limitations Wetland Disturbance Applying only to wetlands located along the coast, the Coastal Area Management Act (CAMA) regulates and protects wetlands. The desired area is not considered to be CAMA-regulated wetlands as they are interior and not located along the coast. This is a major cost in production that would need to be considered in our recommendation. Building commercial infrastructure is not only costly but dangerous as most wetlands are natural crevasses for water collection. If indeed commercial businesses were to arise here, the conversation would then be who would take on the task of formulating the wetland to make sure it reaches building foundation standards. This might be a hard selling point as many commercial businesses are more so accustomed to developing flat, sturdy land. Lastly, up until this point the community relationship with the town officials has been decent, however taking away from the natural environment of the community might create backlash. It has been made clear that the wetlands lost in this location have been mitigated elsewhere, a point that I believe the town could greatly benefit from letting the community know to combat any environmental backlash that could potentially arise. Image 1.2 GIS overview of interior wetlands in the given area. 3

4 Airport Stipulations Michael J. Smith Field is among the busiest general aviation non-towered airports in North Carolina. The airport, which encompasses some 403 acres, is owned and operated by the Beaufort-Morehead City Airport Authority. The airport s primary business comes from general aviation, serving private pilots who reside in the area, and offers full general aviation services and fueling. There is a planned expansion of airport runway 8-26, which may be an opportunity to bring in small-scale commercial flights to help serve the tourism industry. Runway 8-26 plans to be extended to 5,000 feet, complicating the development is the proposal to extend the airport runway northeast of NC 101. With some public land that already exists to protect the runway approach zone. Also, there has been discussion that NC 101 will need to or may be relocated in part to accommodate the airport runway extension. The existence of an airport runway approach/takeoff zone suggests that building heights should be limited to some extent so as not to interfere with aircraft operations. With the proposed bridge being 3,362 feet long it requires 65 feet of navigational clearance. This includes a four-lane median-divided roadway around the perimeter of the airport that connects with existing West Beaufort Road. West Beaufort Road will be dead-ended and will not intersect with US 70. This proceeds on new location from its intersection with Turner Street near Stanton Road to east of NC 101. From NC 101, this option continues on new location to north of Shell Landing Road. The remainder of the project extends on the existing US 70 to north of Beaufort near Olga Road. The remaining lands around the airport would be convenient for light manufacturing facilities. Some growth industries to consider include technology and engineering. The area that is considered for commercial development is generally on the west side of the new proposed US Highway 70, north of the NC 101 intersection. This land is mostly vacant and/or farmland. Image 1.3. Possible airport runway expansion. 4

5 With the expansion of the airport this offers an island-hop that facilitates day trips to other coastal destinations (Carteret County Future of Tourism, 2005). With the Town of Beaufort already having a low rate of employment within the transportation industry. The expansion of the airport can fill this gap by attracting air-shipping services such as Federal Express. Michael J. Smith being the closest airport to the Morehead Port, which is also poised to expand, the two entities in the future should collaborate to bring in more transportation businesses. Urban Form and Design Commercial and Economic Development To build upon the existing economy of Beaufort as well as to expand to accommodate the commercial and residential growth that is happening systematically at the same time across town. By initiating contracts with companies similar to, or including, Bass Pro Shops, Neuse Sports Shops, Chaco, Eagles Nest Outfitters (ENO) and a possibly an outdoor store that sales the water sport equipment, Beaufort continues to attract the same groups of tourists and second-home residents. This being said, the challenge in this case is to also provide forms of recreational and trail around the lake to ensure that the area is not just benefiting of the commercial side of Beaufort but also residents who live within a proximity of the lake. The trail would be composed of a seven-foot wide concrete sidewalk, which would connect residential areas to the commercial areas to the running course around the lake. Twenty seven acres is very large plot of water which will attract mosquitoes and other forms of wildlife like deer. As a buffer around the lake, plants like sea lavender (Limonium spp) and milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) would be planted. Both of these plants are native to North Carolina wetland and will not disturb the natural ecosystem that is already in place and sea lavender is known to naturally repel mosquitoes. We can assume that the lake is 10 feet deep. The lake would also need some type of fencing or signs that explicitly claim that there is not life guard on duty to ensure that those who visit the lake after hours are aware they are entering at their own health risks. This of course is a legal formality. Future Land Use To plan for the anticipated commercial businesses who will come into the currently underdeveloped area, we recommend zoning the specific area as commercial for future land uses. This recommendation is hypothetical of course depending on the current landowners of the properties in question and whether they so choose to sell their land to commercial businesses. Another question of course is whether the town of Beaufort could perchance acquire the land as an asset themselves. This would be beneficial for numerous reasons as the town would then be in control of the businesses who come into the area. However, competing with major companies to acquire this pristine land may not be financially feasible for the town to even consider. 5

6 Future Specialty Zoning Ordinance Image 1.4 GIS Future Land Use Map, Author: Eliud de Jesus The overarching goal of all of this development is to continue to preserve Beaufort and the character that the town has embodied over the years. This being said to ensure that all development is aesthetically coinciding with the original nature of the Beaufort waterfront, a specialty zoning ordinance should be recommended and voted upon. Although over the years there has been conflict as to whether or not zoning for aesthetic objectives is an excess use of 6

7 police power against citizens and business owners, there have been few actual cases that have stood up and succeeded in the face of the courts. One in particular is the similar of Beaufort, South Carolina. Also historic and along a waterfront, Beaufort, SC, has adopted what is known as a Unified Development Ordinance. This particular ordinance amends the town s original zoning guidelines to provide a design standard for any and all new businesses. But not only does it encompass design, it also can create additional height and floor space limitations to combat big businesses, place restrictions on signs and banners which may become a nuisance, as well as control the modernism of building structures. Recommendations Although commercial development would be an amazing asset for the town of Beaufort and its economy, building on a wetland, even if it is interior, is not something that we would like to contribute to unless mitigation is explained and presented to the community. Development along any coast is a very touchy topic and to cover all basis the mitigation process would need to as visible as the development process. We would just like to say that although we are recommending the development with some reservations, it is important to remember that it is fairly expensive to construct on a wetland let alone to maintain the land afterwards if it is a low land point, an expense that could be put aside for emergency management planning. It is also our recommendation to develop in the area alongside the new U.S. 70 Highway, and utilize those parcels to create community and commercial development. Although the amount of traffic on this road will be majority passer-byers, the make-up of this area is still majority single family residential and any new additions that are built with the community in mind could create a concrete commercial audience. 7

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