Hilton Head developers might catch a break from town on stormwater

Redevelopment in some areas on Hilton Head Island could become easier as the town considers an option to waive some stormwater requirements in return for a fee.

The town’s Land Management Ordinance committee is in the midst of reviewing three recommendations regarding stormwater management that could give developers more options, Jim Gant, chairman of the committee, said.

“We would like to maintain or improve water quality while providing flexibility in how developers meet these standards,” Gant said.

One of the recommendations is to charge a fee in lieu of completing the town’s stormwater management requirements.

Bryan McIlwee, assistant town engineer, said it’s possible the fee option, if approved by the committee and Town Council, would only be for certain areas.

“The Coligny area for example,” McIlwee said. “You might have a really tight urban site or the water table could be too high. That is why we would like to have some flexibility.”

The town currently requires dry or wet retention areas — such as ditches and lagoons — to capture water runoff at sites developed on the island, McIlwee said. It can be hard for developers of older lots to find the space for this. There are underground solutions for some developers, but high water tables would eliminate that option for others.

The town would use the fee to improve its stormwater system, McIlwee said. He said the fee amount and system improvements have not yet been determined.

You might have a really tight urban site or the water table could be too high. That is why we would like to have some flexibility.

Bryan McIlwee, Hilton Head Island assistant town engineer

Other options recommended to the committee include allowing developers to use required green space buffers as retention areas. The buffers could use certain types of soil and vegetation that can filter water while also providing green space.

Another option allows developers to skip the required retention areas and bring forward their own solution to meet water quality levels.

Mayor David Bennett said he is willing to have a discussion about stormwater management but does have some concerns.

“This is an effort on the part of this particular committee,” Bennett said. “It is not something that has been brought forth by our town staff. Stormwater management is extremely important. I am always willing to listen, but at our core we need to be true to our environmental legacy.”

Gant said the idea of the committee’s proposal is not to lessen the water quality or quantity requirements placed on developers but to provide alternative ways for them to meet these standards.

It is even possible that water quality could be improved in the process, Gant said. He said discussions include adding water quality testing from development sites. He said this is something that Beaufort County has implemented, but the town does not do.

Teresa Moss: 843-706-8152, @TeresaIPBG