Alston Park workforce housing proposal is flawed

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On June 25, a letter was sent to the residents of Alston Park, a community being constructed by Village Park Homes, a division of Dream Finders Homes. Richard Schwartz, vice president of Village Park Homes LLC, described a proposal to the Town of Bluffton changing the configuration of Alston Park's last phase 3.

Mr. Schwartz stated that the Town of Bluffton has approached Village Park Homes with the idea of being "a part of the Affordable Housing Solutions for the Town of Bluffton." The town would like to add this project to their growing portfolio of what has become known as "workforce housing."

"Workforce Housing" is a program that would allow a family of four, whose total income is between 60% and 100% of the Area Median Income for Beaufort County, to purchase homes in this community. Currently the AMI is $83,000.

There are several problems with their proposal.

Density: The original Phase 3 is just 67 acres and was previously approved for 76 single family homes. Village Park Homes wants to triple the number of homes to 282. In reality, there are only 42 usable "upland" acres for the designated homes, driveways, streets, sidewalks, and other infrastructure.

Regarding retention ponds, it's questionable that there would be ample space for these ponds in the new proposal to operate as intended. The increased density would severely impact the wetlands which flow into the New and May Rivers, which are unique waterways for Bluffton's "State of Mind."

Parking could also be a problem, since most of these proposed homes would have only a single-car garage and a single parking space. This might cause an on-street parking problem and congestion for safe transit of emergency vehicles.

Safety: The originally approved Alston Park plan called for two access roads into the development from New Riverside Drive. To date, Alston Park has only one. The second access road would be constructed with Phase 3 and would be for Alston Park alone.

The new proposal would create a brand new subdivision with only one access road onto New Riverside Drive. The Town of Bluffton mandates that all subdivisions along New Riverside Drive must have at least two access roads.

As a result, both Alston Park and the new subdivision would each have only one access road from New Riverside Drive to accommodate emergency vehicles and the ensuing heavy traffic, which is the reason for the town's mandate.

Location: This proposed project is in the extreme southwest corner of the town. It's far away from workforce businesses where residents might have to commute. It's also miles from any public transportation routes that potential workers might find useful.

It's commendable that the Town of Bluffton has recognized the need for a program such as workforce housing; we feel the scale of this proposal is too dense for this location. The neighborhood would be better served by adhering to Alston Park's original plan for 76 homes instead of 282.

Dallas Hutcheson is a member of the Haven Committee for Responsible Growth in Bluffton.

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