The Beaufort County Planning Commission unanimously did not recommend changes to an ordinance that protects St. Helena Island because of its cultural and historical significance.
Thursday’s three-hour meeting included a lengthy discussion about the county’s Cultural Protection Overlay district.
The meeting was heavily attended with only standing room available when the meeting started.
The attendance comes following an online petition that garnered more than 5,000 signatures from those seeking to protect the island from development.
St. Helena Island and some of its surrounding barrier islands have been part of a Cultural Protection Overlay District since 1999. Marquetta Goodwine, also known as Queen Quet, the chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation, says the CPO is important to protecting the living culture.
“I’m one of the few living members that got the cultural protection overlay district created in Beaufort County. And then I worked up and down this coast, from North Carolina to Florida trying to get other counties to replicate it,” Quet says. “But this is the only place in the world where a zoning ordinance was put in place to protect a living culture. That culture specifically being Gullah culture at the time that they know better now is Gullah Geechee culture.”
The CPO was originally approved with wording that outright prevents the development of restricted or gated Areas, resorts and golf Courses. Now, the Beaufort County Planning Commission is considering updating the language to include exceptions.