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“10 feet from my bedroom window”: Old Town’s fight against bungalow court continues

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Palmetto Dunes recently had a string of break-ins in their rental homes. Here are a few quick tips for rental owners across Beaufort County — and a few specific tips for Palmetto Dunes property owners.
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Palmetto Dunes recently had a string of break-ins in their rental homes. Here are a few quick tips for rental owners across Beaufort County — and a few specific tips for Palmetto Dunes property owners.

Old Town Bluffton’s first proposed bungalow court is one step away from being approved conceptually, but neighbors are upset with the approval process.

Bluffton’s Planning Commission will review Pop’s Place, a short-term rental complex on Wharf Street Wednesday. Proposed by Kevin Quat, president of Absolute Island Management, Inc., Pop’s Place initially received Planning Commission denial on Sept. 26.

The proposal calls for five one-bedroom units between 42 and 44 Wharf Street that can be rented out.

But Heather Colin, Bluffton’s growth management director, said Monday the Planning Commission’s denials— based on the proposed use of the property — went beyond its authority.

That meant Pop’s Place has been revived and is on the cusp of being developed into what some Old Town residents say is a “commercial motel.”

Vicky Foster, an Old Town resident who lives next to the Pop’s Place site, started a petition that she says has received more than 60 signatures opposing the project. The petition is on the grounds that the town’s Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) doesn’t allow for such a project to be built at the Wharf Street location.

“(Pop’s Place) would be less than 10 feet from my bedroom window,” Foster said Monday. “The driveway goes up to my wire fence. There are plenty of other places (tourists) can stay.”

That definition doesn’t include short-term rentals, something Colin, who is also the town’s UDO administrator, said was the reason the project could continue for the time being.

“Short-term rentals are part of what we’re looking at in our strategic plan,” she said. “But, the UDO doesn’t work in retrospect. Since the project was already proposed, any future changes (to the UDO) wouldn’t affect it.”

If Pop’s Place is approved, Foster said she and her neighbors would consider pursuing an appeal with the Board of Zoning Appeals. She claims she’s spoken to Bluffton Mayor Lisa Sulka and members of Bluffton Town Council about she and neighbors’ concerns. But she said she feels the town has ignored them.

“We don’t have a community association in Old Town,” Foster said. “Town Council should be looking out for our rights.”

Sulka could not be reached for comment after a phone call, and Councilman Larry Toomer declined comment until the project’s fate has been determined.

Even if the Planning Commission approves the project Wednesday, Colin said it would need to receive architectural approval and building permits. She would also be the decision-maker on whether the project is permissible under the current UDO.

Ultimately, Foster said she thinks the project would hurt Wharf Street property values — and residents’ overall well-being.

“It would affect property values negatively and short-term rentals and Airbnbs are very widely known to have issues in Hilton Head,” she said. “Who would intentionally want to move in next to that?”

Alec Snyder has been the growth and development reporter at The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette since June 2018. He covers Beaufort County and Bluffton government, along with housing affordability throughout the area. Alec is from Philadelphia and an alum of The George Washington University.


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