“Parking is insane.”
That’s how Burt Sky, owner of Peaceful Henry’s, summed up the current situation in Bluffton’s historic district.
Sky was among the more than half-dozen Old Town business owners and residents to bring their parking concerns to Tuesday’s Bluffton Town Council meeting.
One after another, these folks used their three minutes of allotted public comment time to plead with town leaders to do more to address the problem of lack of parking, particularly around the Promenade.
Lauren Jordan, general manager of Captain Woody’s Seafood Restaurant, said parking at “the Promenade is maxed out.”
“You can’t tell me people aren’t losing business” due to patrons struggling to find a space to park, she said.
Nancy Golson, owner of Old Town shop Eggs ‘N’ Tricites, compared the historic district to a living organism, saying, “Our arteries are clogged here.”
“We are no longer a state of mind; we are a state of chaos,” she said, playfully tweaking one of the town’s mottos — “A State of Mind.”
Many of those who address town leaders Tuesday spoke in support of some sort of paid parking option such as a new lot.
Tuesday’s council meeting comes just a day after Old Town businesses owners gathered for a forum on parking issues.
One of the main topics of discussion at that forum was a proposal by property owner Frank Coburn, real estate agent Wayne McDonald, and Bluffton BBQ proprietor and former Bluffton Councilman Ted Huffman to build a large parking lot adjacent to the Promenade.
The proposal, which involves the town buying a roughly 3-acre parcel of land from Coburn and leasing it to a parking management firm, would add about 250 spots in the heart of Old Town.
Town leaders have so far declined to pursue the deal. Many of those who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting asked council members to reconsider.
“I’d love for the proposal to come back before the town as part of a public workshop,” Old Town business owner Margie Fox said.
Mayor Lisa Sulka and members of the council did not address Coburn, McDonald and Huffman’s proposal directly Tuesday.
But Sulka addressed parking concerns generally, saying, “I promise you that parking has been on council’s mind for a lot of years.”
“We are eating that elephant bites at a time,” she said.
Other council action
Town Council gave final approval to a change to town code that provides incentives in the form of density bonuses for developers to build more affordable housing.
The body also preliminarily approved an update to the town’s animal control ordinance that would bring it inline with Beaufort County’s regulations and allow the town to utilize the county’s animal control services.
Town manager Marc Orlando presented the town’s proposed budget for the 2017 fiscal year, which begins in July.
Bluffton’s overall budget would grow by roughly 21 percent from about $30.3 million to about $36.6 million, according to the proposal.
The proposal does not call for any property tax increases for town residents.
The public will have the opportunity to learn more about the proposed budget at workshops scheduled for May 16 and May 26.
The council will vote to approve the new budget on June 14.