Beaufort News

Tree committee could get more say over landscaping

Bluffton Town Council suggested Tuesday it may give the tree committee a bigger role in planning and facilitating town beautification efforts.

Councilors asked the committee during a workshop to consider various improvements to high-visibility gateways into town, as well as possible ordinance changes that expands the committee's duties beyond tree management.

"I'm not a micromanager," Mayor Lisa Sulka said. "You all are the committee. You should get your (proposal) and bring it back to the council."

Councilors and town staff used the workshop to discuss plans to install new "wayfinding" signage in old town and the status of landscaping improvements planned for roundabouts on S.C. 46 at Bluffton Parkway and S.C. 46 at S.C. 170.

It became clear during the 90-minute discussion that improving the town's appearance through landscaping and signage was a priority.

"Two million people are coming through Bluffton (each year) and they don't even know it," said Councilor Mike Raymond, referring to the lack of welcome signs on some major roads.

Councilor Ted Huffman and Sulka said an improved town appearance could attract new businesses.

"It's really about economic development," Sulka said.

The board also learned of a new regional effort by the Greater Island Council Transportation Committee to improve the appearance of medians and shoulders throughout Beaufort County, including along U.S 278.

No votes were taken, and much of the meeting focused on the future role of the roughly 15-month-old tree committee. The panel now concentrates on managing trees on town-owned land.

Under the changes discussed Tuesday, the committee could take a more prominent role on projects ranging from roundabouts and signage to new tree planting initiatives.

"So far, (these efforts) have been disjointed and unorganized," said tree committee chair Roberts Vaux. "Everyone has good intentions, but everyone is going off doing different things."

Vaux said the committee would hold its first meeting within the next two weeks. He said draft changes to the tree ordinance could be ready for council consideration in June.

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