Beaufort News

Bluffton charts growth with new code

A growth and development plan that one official said will "change the DNA" of Bluffton won initial approval from town council Tuesday night.

The two-year project -- called the Unified Development Ordinance -- will guide growth in Bluffton and work to keep it out of sensitive areas of the May River watershed.

The vote also streamlined the development application process and created new zoning laws.

The change requires a second reading before final approval.

A growth map pinpoints where development should happen and what areas should be kept free of growth. For example, the original one-square mile of old town would be a "village place" where retail shops would connect to multiple neighborhoods.

The plan also calls for development of a "town center" at Buckwalter Place. The center is intended to be a pedestrian-friendly mix of residential and commercial property with high-rise buildings.

The overhaul of land use, zoning and development standards will "change the DNA of Bluffton," according Marc Orlando, director for growth management.

The overhaul also offers incentives to developers for building in selected areas. Developers can get fee reductions for using green building practices, preserving historic buildings, creating pedestrian walkways and restoring wetlands, among other town-defined benefits.

The overhaul project cost more than $231,500. The town contributed about $117,800 while grants, including a state Department of Health and Environmental Control grant for May River cleanup projects, funded the rest.

No residents spoke at the public hearing before the vote. That hearing was the latest in a series of opportunities citizens and stakeholders have had to weigh in. Town staff estimate that 150 people participated when the code was reviewed article-by-article at joint Planning Commission and Town Council workshops over the past several months, Orlando said.

"We've got a lot of people with fingerprints all over these documents - our residents, our stakeholders, our business leaders, our engineers," Councilman Mike Raymond said.

The town will have a final reading on the plan Oct. 11. Assuming approval, the code is slated to go into effect Nov. 9, and will be available online after it is formally adopted.

Follow staff writer Allison Stice at

Related content

  1. Bluffton to unveil development standards, Feb. 21, 2011
  2. Bluffton ready to launch river cleanup projects, Dec. 15, 2010
  3. Public buy-in is a key component to new zoning philosophy, Nov. 27, 2010
  4. Bluffton invites public to weigh in on town code, May 9, 2010