As you cross the bridge out of Downtown Beaufort, you drive onto Sea Island Parkway’s long stretch of retail businesses on Lady’s Island. Some of those business properties belong to the City of Beaufort and some belong to the county.
“You may find one property that’s in the city limits, the next is in the incorporated area, city county city county, and that’s not very efficient in terms of the delivery of public services, so we’re trying to correct that,” said the Director of City Planning, Libby Anderson. “The city does have a long range plan, and this is part of implementation to try to fill those gaps.”
The gaps are what they call “doughnut holes”– gaps in-between property city property. This becomes a problem when businesses or residents are in an emergency and call the wrong fire department or police department, depending on what property they’re on, it may be city or county.
“The property owners in the Secession area came to the city and expressed their interest in annexing,” Anderson said, “As a result of that, the city decided to try to piggy back some additional properties on that annexation and so we reached out to these owners on the Sea Island Parkway Corridor.”
It’s a total of 67 properties, 56 are part of Secession Golf Course, including single-family homes, and 11 are businesses along the Island Parkway such as Fillin’ Station Restaurant, Wells Fargo, Shell, Zippy Lube, and a packing shed.
“The purpose is to bring properties that are currently in the county into the existing city limits so the city will begin to provide certain kinds of services like police services to all the properties being annexed, satiation services to the residential properties being annexed,” Anderson said, “And as a result of that there will be some additional revenue that the city gains from that annexation.”
The tax that properties will have to pay to the city will be a little higher than the county, which was alarming for Chris Butler, owner of Marine Butler boat shop.“We basically didn’t have a whole lot of choice,” Butler said. He says about three months prior, he had received a letter in the mail letting him know his business had been selected for annexation.
“I had it explained to me form the City Attorney on what my options were, ya know he was a customer of mine so I thought he would be upfront,” Bulter said, “Which he was and explained the whole thing to me. It took a while ’cause it’s very complex, but once it was explained to me, I looked at the options that I have and basically said I really only have one option.”
After looking into the state laws, Butler said even if he were to fight it, losing just wouldn’t be worth it.
“There’s a possibility that if you jump up and down loud enough they would let you out, but you take that risk… if they still include you, I lose all my incentives, so now I’ve lost the incentives, I’m still in the city and its gonna cost me more money right off the bat for property tax and business license,” he said.
He says fighting it would be considered an involuntary annexation which would revoke the incentives the city is currently offering him, such as a reduced tax rate for up to 15 years.
For a full list of the properties and the agenda from the City Council meeting, click here.