Bluffton residents give voice to Calhoun Street noise complaints

sbowman@islandpacket.comAugust 13, 2013 

The scene at Tuesday night's Bluffton Town Council meeting.

STAFF PHOTO

  • In other action, council:

  • unanimously approved the Accommodations Tax Advisory Committee's recommendations for three grants. The grants include $20,000 for the Historic Bluffton Arts & Seafood Festival, Inc.; $15,000 for the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce; and $9,000 for the Old Town Bluffton Merchants Society. The council postponed voting on a $30,000 grant for the Bluffton Historical Preservation Society until its Sept. 10 meeting.

  • Eleven Old Town residents asked town council Tuesday night to address what they say are continuing noise problems on Calhoun Street.

    The residents spoke for more than a half hour, demanding that council give the police the proper tools to enforce the noise ordinance already on the books.

    One resident who has lived in Old Town for most of her life said the area's new "popularity has attracted people whose idea of being a good neighbor falls short of our community standard.

    "We need to reclaim that standard of what it means to be a good neighbor," said Susan Saxon, who lives on Church Street. Many said they can hear the noise five or six nights a week. Some said it is so loud they can't hear their televisions or sleep.

    One resident said he and his wife came to Bluffton to retire, but said the noise is driving them out.

    Another said it is ruining her family's quality of life.

    Former Mayor Emmett McCracken also spoke, saying he remembers the much different Calhoun Street of the 1940s. He said the quiet enjoyment of one's home is in jeopardy.

    In addition to discussions of noise, residents also cited parking problems. Many said their driveways or mailboxes have been blocked by visitors to the Calhoun Street area.

    Mayor Lisa Sulka, other council members present -- Michael Raymond, Ted Huffman and Karen Lavery -- and Town Manager Anthony Barrett said they heard the residents loud and clear.

    Sulka said she wants the noise and parking issues along Calhoun Street to be a priority for council.

    Barrett said that while the issues are difficult to address, council has amended the noise ordinance in the past, and might do so again if necessary.

    Several residents suggested including a change that would ban amplification of music outdoors without a special events permit.

    Sulka said council would work with Bluffton Police Chief Joey Reynolds to see that the current ordinance is enforced.

    Councilman Raymond said the community needs to find a way to balance the idea of "live, work and play" in the mixed-use space.

    "One of our goals was that we wanted people to come in and discover Bluffton, and guess what, they found us," Raymond said. "But that is causing some growing pains, and we have to think of the best way to tackle this."

    Many of those who spoke said they are happy to see a growing and thriving Old Town, but the charm of what attracts people to the historic district needs to be preserved.

    "Something must be done," was a very popular phrase.

    But one resident worded it a little differently.

    "I would like to thank you in advance for what I know is going to happen," said Jacob Preston, a Church Street resident.

    Follow reporter Sarah Bowman on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.

    Related content:

    Raymond to run for re-election in Bluffton Town Council election, August 12, 2013

    Bluffton Town Council workshop to focus on aesthetics, April 22, 2012

    Bluffton Town Council give initial OK to budget adjustment, February 19, 2013

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