Preserving rural character should be county's goal in Bluffton area

astice@islandpacket.comNovember 18, 2011 

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Some Bluffton-area residents want to preserve the rural character of their communities, and a new zoning code being crafted by Beaufort County intends to do just that, county planners say.

Over the past week, consultants and architects have been designing the future of neighborhoods in the All Joy-Brighton Beach, Pritchardville and May River Road areas that are in unincorporated Beaufort County.

About 50 residents have passed through the planners' temporary studio in the Bluffton library to share their ideas and concerns, county community planner Brian Herrmann said.

"We wanted to provide an opportunity for folks to make (their neighborhoods) look the way they want and prevent the stuff that they don't want," Herrmann said.

The suggestions, which included adding bike paths and preventing development in environmentally sensitive areas, were incorporated into drawings released Friday at a closing presentation. The goal of the new code is to promote walkable neighborhoods and prevent urban sprawl, county planner Robert Merchant said.

It will also do a better job of preventing unwanted development, he said.

Planners say the model for such a neighborhood is nearby -- old town Bluffton, with its mix of shops, homes, businesses and paths, and its uniform aesthetic standards.

The new code will allow for growth that can bring new services within biking and walking distance and match the look of a neighborhood, said consultant Stefan Pellegrini of Opticos Design, a Berkeley, Calif.-based firm hired last year to form the code.

Areas such as Myrtle Park, which a Bluffton Parkway extension will eventually make more accessible, would be ideal places for a mix of residential, civic and commercial space, Pellegrini said.

Creating walkable neighborhoods could have economic benefits as well, said Ed Starkie of Urban Advisors Ltd. Businesses value communities where their employees want to live and where the community supports them, Starkie said.

Authenticity is something you "can't buy or create -- it just has to be there," he said. "So it's very important to preserve that."

County planners will continue to work with residents as the plans for the code are refined, Herrmann said.

A draft of the multi-jurisdictional code, which will also chart growth for Beaufort and Port Royal, should be completed by January, he added.

Follow reporter Allison Stice at twitter.com/BlufftonBlogIP.

Related content

  1. Bluffton residents asked to help design their communities' future, Nov. 13, 2011
  2. Residents to get chance to speak on community appearance, Oct. 17, 2011
  3. New zoning idea rejects car-based communities, Nov. 27, 2010
  4. May River Road plan tries to keep its rural character, Aug. 4, 2009
  5. Public buy-in is a key component to new zoning philosophy, Nov. 27, 2010

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