After two years working to develop the 1.6-acre lot he owns in Old Town Bluffton, Sean Barth's vision for a new neighborhood of rental homes may soon be a reality.
On Wednesday, the town's Planning Commission unanimously voted to allow Barth to continue moving forward with a final development plan for what will be the Tidal Cottages neighborhood. In the plan submitted to the town, nine lots are mapped out. Anywhere from six to nine homes will be built on the property once it receives final approval, Barth said.
The parcel sits between Thomas Heyward Street and Guilford Place just south of May River Road in the historic district.
Barth, a professor of hospitality management at the University of South Carolina Beaufort, has tried to develop the property since 2012. He first submitted plans for a 12-room inn on the site, but that plan was abandoned after the town said the building wouldn't mesh with the historic district's appearance.
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Barth's second plan was to build bungalows. That plan was dropped over parking and tree removal issues.
The neighborhood envisioned in his latest plan will be open to long-term renters who "care to live here as much as we care to," Barth told the commission board. He said he wanted to open more rental options to those who want to live in Old Town, but might be priced out of buying a home there.
Barth said he intended to use modular-home plans from the recently approved Bluffton Small Home Series program for the neighborhood. He said he had reviewed all 36 designs and narrowed the list to 12 that would work on the property. The size and alignment of the homes chosen will determine how many are built, he said. He did not give a cost estimate for the project.
With the commission's decision, the site plan will be resubmitted to the town's Development Review Committee for final approval. To receive that approval, Barth must complete engineering work on the lot to address concerns both committees raised over drainage and road width.
The property's proximity to Verdier Cove presents erosion issues for residents living downstream. The width of the planned road may be too narrow for fire engines to fit through.
Barth also must get an easement from the neighboring development, Stock Farm, to connect the planned road to Guilford Place.
He said after the meeting he hoped to work with the development to tie his property's drainage system into its system, alleviating some of the drainage concerns. A planned pond will also collect most of the stormwater from the property, he said.
The project doesn't have a planned start date, Barth said, because of the long engineering and easement processes, but he was eager to start it soon.
"I wanted to start yesterday," he joked.
Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.
- Housing for 'young professionals' proposed for Old Town, Dec. 4, 2013