Bluffton Planning Commission votes to expand review powers

dburley@islandpacket.comFebruary 26, 2014 

Bluffton's Planning Commission voted Wednesday night to make itself the sole reviewer of architectural designs for development along some of the town's busiest roads.

The vote means the town will now review both the look of a building as well as the site on which it is built along portions of U.S. 278, S.C. 46 and the Buckwalter Parkway, among other town roads.

Currently, the Southern Corridor Review Board -- made up of representatives from Beaufort County, Bluffton and the Town of Hilton Head Island -- reviews the appearance of buildings proposed along those roadways.

The county is also considering code changes similar to those made Wednesday night by Bluffton.

The SCRB would cease to exist if the county makes those changes.

Under the current arrangement, a developer visits the town of Bluffton for a site review and the county board for an architectural review.

With the changes, the Planning Commission would handle both plans within its borders.

"It makes sense," commission chairman Thomas Viljac said. "(When developers come in for a site review) you're thinking about (the architectural) stuff anyway. This makes it a more consistent review with one entity."

There is no building architect on the Bluffton panel.

That lack doesn't worry commission chairman Thomas Viljac.

"Most (commissioners) have a lot of experience with that type of work," he said after the meeting.

Town code requires two commissioners to have experience with architecture, landscape architecture, engineering or law.

There are at least three panel members with landscape architecture and engineering experience on the seven-member board, said Shawn Leininger, town assistant director of growth management.

"Certainly as we move forward, Town Council could find someone with architecture experience to put on the board" if necessary, Leininger told the commission.

Town Council will consider the recommended change March 11.

The recommendation was among several code changes the panel passed Wednesday night.

Others included increasing the professional requirements to be on the Historic Preservation Commission; allowing those who live or work outside the historic district to become an historic board commissioner; and creating a historic board subcommittee to speed up the review process.

"The intent here is to streamline the review process and take on minor projects at the staff level," town planner Ben Brown said.

Follow reporter Dan Burley on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Dan.

Related content:

County code overhaul could leave Bluffton panel with more review power, Feb. 25, 2014

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