Town Council: Bluffton park needs new parking lot

March 18, 2009 

  • • Bluffton Town Council held a secret meeting again Tuesday, citing "discussion of employment, appointment, compensation, promotion, demotion, discipline or release of an employee" as the reason for the executive session. • The council did not provide a more specific explanation, as required by the S.C. Freedom of Information Act. The council's written agenda for the executive session cited "personnel matters." According to two rulings from the S.C. Attorney General, "personnel matters" is not a specific enough reason to go into executive session.

Bluffton Town Council said Tuesday it wants a new parking lot at Oyster Factory Park on the May River to have at least as many parking spots for boat trailers as now exist.

The park, at the end of Wharf Street, is undergoing a renovation that has been planned since 2002. Residents involved in the planning process have told town officials they want at least 40 spaces for trailers to park when the new lot is built, council members said Tuesday. Up to 45 trailers are parked at the existing dirt lot most weekend days, those residents have said.

The residents said they are concerned that if the parking lot is downsized, boaters will park trailers along the streets of old town, clogging roads and creating traffic hazards.

Of five available options, council voted 4-1 to recommend one that sited the lot on the northeast corner of the park and allows 46 trailer spaces and 30 car spaces. Such a lot would take up 25 percent of the six-acre park, according to town planning staff.

Charlie Wetmore voted against the recommendation.

Beaufort County Parks and Leisure Services also is involved in planning the park, so council recommendations also must be approved at the county level.

That new parking option would have "dramatic impacts to the tree canopy and wildlife habitat," according to a planning department memo.

So far, improvements to the park include the addition of nature trails, the stabilization of the historic home of a freed slave and landscaping.

Future plans for the $2.2 million capital improvement project include building a pavilion, expanding the pedestrian paths, installing new lights and building a public dock.

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