Thursday, October 30, 2008

What is a Charrette?

A funny word, sure, but what else?

The term charrette comes from the French, meaning "little cart." The word’s origins are traced to an art school tradition from 19th century Paris. A cart was sent around to students’ studios to collect work to be graded by professors. Like most students, these artists and architects in training worked until the last minute and often followed the charrette through the streets making finishing touches on their work as the cart rumbled towards judgment.

The idea has been refined by architects to indicate a process on a fast-track, undertaken in the presence of their clients. New Urbanist planning teams formalized the technique, creating a multi-day format with built-in feedback opportunities for both clients and the public. Now charrettes have become the processes of choice for many planners faced with complex, controversial projects on a tight deadline.

By involving everyone who can enable or block decisions and by committing to produce actionable plans within a set timeframe, charrettes can save months – even years – of tedious back-and-forth negotiations and redesign. They also provide an experience that’s increasingly rare for most people: they get to be involved in something organized especially to listen to their ideas and to act on them immediately.

A charrette raises expectations. It builds enthusiasm. It draws clear lines of accountability. Because everyone knows who made the plan, everyone knows who’s responsible if it goes sour. When a developer or a government body chooses a charrette process, it means investing resources to assemble and support a team of experts through four to ten days of near round-the-clock work sessions and community discussions. It’s a leap of faith – in citizens, in the design team, in the process itself. But the potential rewards are great. The pay-off is not only in terms of time and money saved but in the pleasure of partnering with an entire community on a project everyone can be proud of. (Charrette description text courtesy of Ben Brown, PlaceMakers)

To download a copy of the Beaufort Comprehensive Plan Charrette Schedule, click here

Monday, October 27, 2008

Why a Comprehensive Plan

What is the Comprehensive Plan? The City of Beaufort will be adopting a detailed written plan that provides guidelines for growth, development and government of the city for the next twenty years.

Why is a Comprehensive Plan being adopted? A Comprehensive Plan is Beaufort’s blueprint for the future. South Carolina law requires cities to adopt a new plan every ten years. Beaufort’s old plan is about to expire.

Who Adopts the Plan? Beaufort City Council is responsible for adoption of the plan. Final consideration is likely in early Spring of 2009.

What Kind of Input is Being Sought for the Plan? At the direction of City Council, city staff have hired design consultants to assist in creating the plan. City Council has also appointed a Steering Committee of 17 citizens whose job is to advise the consultants and council and create broader opportunity for public input into the plan.

Why is the Comprehensive Plan important to me? The plan will have a direct impact on how local government functions on your behalf, and will strongly influence decisions affecting issues like:
  • Traffic
  • Public Improvements
  • Parking
  • Open Space, Parks, Recreation and Greenways
  • Transit Alternatives
  • Environmental Quality
  • Residential Development and Density
  • Cultural and Art Facilities
  • Neighborhood Identity and Preservation
  • Nature & Location of Commercial Development
  • Historic Preservation
  • Taxation and Public Indebtedness
How can I get involved?
  • Go to the Comprehensive Plan website link on the City’s website at where you can fill out a survey, get informational updates and leave written comments.
  • Email Beaufort City Staff at or call staff at (843) 525-7011.
  • Contact a member of the Steering Committee, whose names, addresses and phone numbers are on the Comprehensive Plan website or available at the City Planning Department.
  • Contact a leader of your local community association or a business or civic association.
  • Attend one or more of the public planning meetings listed on the attached meeting schedule.
These meetings are specifically designed for public participation. The consultants, many steering committee members and city staff will be present. Check the Comprehensive Plan website, call City Hall, or check the newspapers for specific times and topics.

This planning effort will have an important impact on Beaufort’s future and your lives as citizens. Please participate as much as you can.