Getting a permit from the Town of Hilton Head Island for new commercial development can be a daunting process -- one in which clients often discover hurdles that cause delays, a local land-planner says.
Todd Theodore of landscape architectural firm Wood + Partners and others hope changes the town is making to streamline the permitting process will make redevelopment easier, faster and more predictable.
"Hilton Head is an aging community, and there are lots of opportunities to reinvest in a lot of areas," Theodore said. "Anything the town can do to make that investment easier is good for the community."
Town staff has worked for six months to simplify commercial permitting after gathering input from more than 60 people, including architects, land planners, attorneys and developers. Planning commissioner Terry Ennis and Palmetto Hall resident Robert Gentzler, who have worked together as consultants to help businesses simplify their operations, were also involved.
Teri Lewis, who oversees enforcement of the town's land-management ordinance, said the changes complement work by a separate committee that is rewriting zoning and land-use regulations, with the hope of spurring redevelopment. The town's regulations, formed to slow rapid growth in the 1990s, have become obstacles to investment, committee members have said.
Town officials hope changes in both permitting and regulations will entice wary developers and businesses to take another look at Hilton Head and dust off plans that were put aside during the recession.
Some of the changes are in place; others take effect Oct. 1 for anyone applying for a permit to build a new commercial development or addition.
Major changes to the procedure include:
"The idea of the advocate, ... knowing that you have someone to help you through, eases the risk of investment," Theodore said.
"Those were the two big things people wanted to see before they invested time and money into a project," Lewis said. "They wanted some sort of assurances that the project will be approved in a timely manner, because time is money."
The town wants to get the word out that it will be "more business- and customer-friendly," Lewis said.
"We want people to be happy on both sides of the table."
Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/EyeOnHiltonHead.