Beaufort News

Southern Corridor Review Board could take over design of Bluffton roads

A board intended to ensure consistent landscaping and appearances along roads in southern Beaufort County appears poised to spread its responsibility into Bluffton, despite objections from one town councilman.

The Southern Corridor Review Board reviews and approves the architecture, landscape, site and lighting plans for commercial and multi-family residential developments along designated roads in the southern part of the county.

A proposal up for Bluffton Town Council's final consideration Nov. 9 would shift responsibility for such approval along portions of six roads -- U.S. 278, S.C. 170, S.C. 46, Burnt Church Road, Buckwalter Parkway and Bluffton Parkway -- from the town's Planning Commission to the review board.

The change was recommended in 2008 by the Southern Beaufort County Regional Plan Implementation Committee, whose regional plan sets forth a goal of uniform design along roads. The plan used input from the county and the town, County Council Chairman Weston Newton said Thursday.

Even though broader regional participation was the initial goal, Bluffton would, so far, be the only municipality to participate. Town Council voted 4-1 to adopt the change on an initial reading Tuesday.

Councilman Mike Raymond, who cast the lone dissenting vote, opposes the measure because he doesn't believe Bluffton has enough representation on the review board.

The county and the town each appoint three members to the board, while the Town of Hilton Head Island appoints one, even though none of Hilton Head's roads are subject to the board's review.

"It's not really the Southern Corridor Review Board. It would be more accurate to call it the 'Greater Bluffton Corridor Review Board,' " Raymond said.

Two representatives from the May River Community Preservation District also are allowed to vote when the board considers nonresidential projects within the preservation district's limits. Raymond said such special voting privileges for one area defeats the purpose of a uniform approach across the area and is unfair to other distinctive communities along those roads.

Councilman Fred Hamilton said he and Bluffton Mayor Lisa Sulka met with Newton to address Raymond's concerns and to look over the goals outlined in the Southern Beaufort County Regional Plan.

Hamilton said the conversation convinced him Bluffton is adequately represented on the board.