Compass Hotel Must Follow The Rules

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Beaufort Board of Commissioners,

I am certain that you love Beaufort as much as I do and would like to continue this love affair. When I came to Beaufort in 2013 and built a house I followed the rules of development. I currently am contemplating building another larger house. I will follow the rules governing how much I can develop in size, style, and height.

The recent idea of a hotel at Cedar and Orange has raised some questions in that commitment to follow the rules. Let me be clear, I do not oppose a hotel at this location. However I want the developers Joseph Thomas, John Van Coutren, Bruce Sauter and Compass/Margaritaville to follow our rules that we have all abided by.

These rules were developed by the town after considerable time and effort – in particular the height limit. After due consideration a limit was set at 40 feet. At present the rules are: no building above 40 feet.

Several developers have come to town and produced wonderful developments. They initially asked for and were refused variances to the rules. They followed the rules. Forty feet was the LIMIT. They complied and everyone was happy and Beaufort the better for their development. (And the tax base expanded).

Now comes Compass/Margaritaville, Joseph Thomas, John Van Coutren, Bruce Sauter and others who have asked the city to ignore the well thought out rules and allow them to build beyond that 40 foot limit. Why them? Why do they get to not follow the rules?

And it is not just them, if you allow them to violate the height rule then in fairness other developers should be able to as well. Then the standard for Beaufort will be close to 60 feet. Not what the citizens want and not what the commission decided to do in the past.

So why now? What do these developers offer that others have not? Why are you voiding your prior well thought out decisions for this particular group? The public needs to know.

At the present time the town employees, website and commissioners have told the public that no decisions have been made or promised. However, Lodging magazine in their March 19, 2019 edition has stated the following:

“The brand’s two newest signings will bring COMPASS to the waterfront town of Beaufort, North Carolina, and the southern hub of Louisville, Kentucky.

Margaritaville Holdings has signed its next two COMPASS properties, both beginning construction later this year. Slated to open in Q4 2020, the next COMPASS to open is a 110-room hotel located on a marina in downtown historic Beaufort, North Carolina. The hotel will have an outdoor deck, 5 o’Clock Somewhere Bar & Grill, and other Margaritaville-inspired amenities and services. The location is being developed in partnership with Joseph Thomas, John Van Coutren, and Bruce Sauter.”

From this it would appear to any reasonable person that either, 1, the report is over exuberant for some reason or, 2, the Beaufort Commissioners have given the developers the OK to proceed with development without public input.

In either event the public deserves and is required to have “transparency” in these deliberations. We are a small town and we should all be truthful with each other and follow the rules that we have all agreed to. The Rule is 40 feet; please do not betray us.  

Should you, or if you have entered into a contract with these people it may serve all of us for you to review their history. A few examples:

  • As reported in the Florida Times Union their development at Bradenton Perico Island started small and then unexpectedly expanded to a next door development, the Floridays Restaurant and Grill.
  • In Bradenton Florida the original one building hotel suddenly expanded into two buildings and the original plan for retail development disappeared. (Sarasota Herald Tribune)
  • The Fort Meyers Board of Commissioners was sued by the citizens for approval of a building breaking their own zoning laws.
  • These developers were eventually sued by the City of Hollywood, Florida, for a $1,700,000 dispute, which they were unable to resolve amicably.
  • Multiple lawsuits for other issues. These are aggressive developers and they are successful in getting what they want.

If you commit all of your fellow citizens to any deal with these developers please review their track record. A good review can be found in the New York Times April 23, 2016

On a different note, several citizens of Beaufort have traveled to Playa Flamingo Costa Rica where a Margaritaville resort was recently built and by their own observations and from discussions with the citizens of Playa Flamingo the town was changed for the worst. The townsfolk saw it coming but were unable to stop it once it started.

The upcoming charrette, which will be run by the developers is problematic. In working with the City of Raleigh in the 1990s I organized and ran similar charrettes for the development of Hillsboro Street, the Neuse River Park, Pullen Park, Dix Hill development and many other projects. I represented the City of Raleigh. We did want citizen input, but were not bound by it in any way. We often ran the charrettes with a given outcome in mind and maneuvered the attending citizens in a predetermined direction. It always worked.

I do not want this to happen to the people of Beaufort. The design and management of the charrette on April 3 has to have some citizen input, it can not be solely a developers dog and pony show. The height issue has to be addressed. The people of Beaufort are aware, smart and dedicated to their beliefs. Listen to them, trust them and represent them.

Thank you for your consideration of these issues in your service to the people of Beaufort.

Robert Harper
Beaufort Resident