Residents call for action on May River clean up plan

Bluffton-area residents who turned out for a public review Wednesday of the town's May River clean-up plan called for radical action to curb pollution, some going so far as to urge a moratorium on development.

About 30 people, including council members and candidates in the upcoming Town Council election, attended to comment on recommendations in the May River Action Plan.

Feedback so far has included criticism that it focuses too much on restorative measures instead of tackling future development that will cause more pollution.

Town stormwater director Ron Bullman said recommendations for directing growth away from the watershed have been added to the plan. An updated version should be posted to the town's website today, he said.

Most public comments call for a transfer of development rights program as the main solution, he said.

The program would rely on incentives to get developers who own land in areas considered critical for clean waterways to sell their building rights to areas where development is preferable.

Many in the audience, including Hilton Head Island resident Hal Sanders, said developers should be required to do so.

The 19,000 housing units approved but not yet built in the May River watershed are "ticking time bombs," he said.

"The town needs to declare a state of emergency and use every legal tool they have to make it mandatory," Sanders said.

Bullman and consultant Dave Briglio, who presented the plan, reminded residents that it is up to Town Council to create the policies and ordinances to carry it out.

Briglio encouraged residents to continue to lobby for the river.

"It is your community, and you will be pushing ahead with this," he said.

Councilwoman Allyne Mitchell, who is running for re-election this year, showed her notes to the crowd.

"I've written down every suggestion so we can collectively come up with something to do immediately," she said.

After the public review, the next steps for the plan include a presentation to the Planning Commission on Oct. 26 and a vote by Town Council on Nov. 9.

Follow reporter Allison Stice at twitter.com/BlufftonBlogIP.

Related content:Building rights transfers in Bluffton key to healthy river, environmentalists, officials say, Sept. 23, 2011

Managing wildlife next for town's May River cleanup projects, Sept. 5, 2011

Restoration of May River proceeds, Aug. 31, 2011

May River action plan scrutinized, Aug. 30, 2011