Compass Hotel Developer Says ‘We’re Moving Forward With 40 Feet’

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The view of the Compass Hotel from Town Creek as presented in the developer's first proposal. The design has been tweaked to restrict the roof height to 40 feet, and the total height to 50 feet.

After weeks of discussion and public protest, Joe Thomas, head developer of the proposed Compass Hotel, told the Board of Commissioners (BOC) that he and his business partners have adjusted their project to conform with Beaufort town ordinance.

Elected officials and town staff met with Thomas this afternoon to discuss concerns raised at a public feedback forum earlier this month. However, according to Mayor Rett Newton, “[Thomas] opened up the meeting with, ‘We have decided we can stay within town ordinance for the hotel’.”

Thomas and his business partners originally proposed a 44-foot-tall building with 13 extra feet for rooftop structures. For the building to be approved as presented, the town would have needed to amend zoning restrictions.

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The hotel site near the western end of Cedar Street in Beaufort is zoned Business Waterfront, which restricts structure height to 40 feet plus 10 feet for rooftop structures not exceeding 10 percent of the roof area.

“We have been working to try to stay within the ordinance, and it worked out fine, and we’re moving forward with the 40 feet,” Thomas said.

Revised plans have not been released yet, but Newton said Thomas was “very clear that he was going to stay within town ordinance.”

The controversial project first came to light at the BOC’s annual retreat in mid-March, and was met with push-back from residents. One group organized a petition asking the town to maintain the 40-foot height limit and another printed yard signs emblazoned with “40′” that can be seen across Beaufort and beyond.

To address the controversy, the town asked the developers to participate in a design charette April 3 to gather feedback from citizens. Hundreds of people showed up for the event and dozens had to be turned away due to occupancy limitations.

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Thomas said he and the other developers were happy to hear the public’s input.

“We’re well pleased with what we came up with,” he said. “We think its a win-win for everybody.”

In light of today’s announcement, Newton said the town would not hold the second design charette that had been announced after the maxed-out charette earlier this month, but that there are opportunities for the public to give additional input.

“There will still be public comment sessions for the Planning Board and Board of Commissioners meetings,” he said, adding that the town will address the project in the same fashion that they would any other.

For now, the town will wait on the developers to conduct an engineering study, which will be presented to the town Planning Board along with a formal project proposal at a future meeting. After the Planning Board makes a decision, the Board of Commissioners will consider the proposal at one of their regular meetings.

Newton said if everything moves quickly on the developer’s end, the Planning Board may discuss the project in their June meeting. If a decision is made then, the BOC would be able to address the proposal during their July meeting.

All Planning Board and BOC meetings are open to the public and include a public comment period.