County staff expects to OK Olive Garden building plan

Olive Garden remains on track to build in greater Bluffton despite a skirmish with Beaufort County about the restaurant's appearance, county and Tanger Outlet Center officials said Wednesday.

County planning director Tony Criscitiello said he expects to approve the restaurant's plans for a site in Tanger Outlet Center 1. The plans include tile and stone materials at the heart of the restaurant's dispute with the county, he said.

The County Council earlier this year authorized staff to decide whether Olive Garden could use the materials. The council's decision came after the county's Southern Corridor Review Board, which typically governs the appearance of properties along the mainland U.S. 278 corridor, voted in November not to allow a design using those materials.

Board members said the materials don't match those used for other buildings there and the materials aren't "indigenous to the Lowcountry."

Panera Bread and LongHorn Steakhouse already have opened on other outparcels at the center, but those two chains made concessions to more closely resemble the retail areas of the center.

If Olive Garden receives Criscitiello's approval, it would then need a building permit. Criscitiello said that should be a formality for such an experienced company.

An Olive Garden spokeswoman said she couldn't immediately comment.