Beaufort News

Bluffton to unveil development standards

Bluffton planners say they are ready to begin unveiling proposed standards for the town's growth, pinpointing where development should and should not go and what form it should take.

Beginning Tuesday and ending in June, drafts of the proposed ordinance will be released piecemeal for public review and comment. Town Council is slated to consider adopting the overhaul in August.

Specifics about the zoning, design and administrative changes proposed in the overhaul, funded by part of a $1 million federal grant to reduce pollution in the May River, won't be available until the scheduled release dates.

Marc Orlando, assistant town manager for growth management, said the code overhaul is a blueprint for creating a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly town and keeping development out of the May River's watershed.

The overhaul is different from the town's current approach to zoning, which segregates business and commercial areas from residential neighborhoods, stunting pedestrian access and creating an over-reliance on cars, Orlando said.

The new approach revolves around creating distinct neighborhoods. That means promoting high-density districts that mix commercial and residential development, with low-density edges that preserve rural character and open land, Orlando said.

Clustering development in designated areas that have water, sewer and stormwater systems and making development off-limits in the watershed will reduce stormwater runoff, Orlando said.

"It outlines where we want to grow and where we don't," he said. "The goal is to find a scenario that's healthy and beneficial."

Town manager Anthony Barrett said the proposed ordinance also includes a chapter on economic development, with incentives for developers who use green-building standards and provide affordable housing, among other town-defined benefits.

Those incentives could include reduced development fees and a faster review process, according to a presentation from 180