The Town of Bluffton will host its fourth annual Historic Preservation Symposium at 5:30 p.m. May 23 at Town Hall, 20 Bridge St. The event is free and open to the public.

The symposium, titled “The Bluffton Historic District: Then and Now,” will bring together historic preservation organizations, residents, students, business owners and Town leaders to discuss the importance of historic preservation and the need for development that is compatible and supports the intent of the Historic District.

The event will begin with a Meet and Greet with representatives of local historic preservation organizations at 5:30 p.m. A moderated speaker panel will be held from 6 to 7: 30 p.m.

The public is invited also to a reception following the symposium at The Pine House, 85 Bridge St.

The two featured speakers will be Christian Sottile and Josh Martin. Sottile is the principal of Sottile & Sottile, a Savannah-based design firm working extensively in Nationally Registered historic districts.

He is also a professor of architecture and urban design at the Savannah College of Art and Design, and is the former dean of the SCAD School of Building Arts.

Martin formerly was Bluffton’s senior planner, community development director and town manager. He is currently Palm Beach, Fla.’s, director of planning, zoning and building.

Martin brings nearly 20 years of experience in senior roles in Charleston and Bluffton. He brings a unique perspective of watching Bluffton throughout recent years implement plans for historic preservation while promoting business-friendly initiatives.

Heather Colin, director of Growth Management for the Town of Bluffton, said both speakers are uniquely qualified to speak to the planning process and the lessons learned of how the Bluffton Historic District has evolved throughout the past 15 or so years.

“Christian and Josh both have a longstanding history with the Town and both were instrumental in shaping the plans and policies which have resulted in the current Historic District,” Colin said. “Both can speak to what the challenges and opportunities were 15 years ago and how the Town has either met them or still has them on the radar screen. They will both give a look back as the symposium will also discuss today’s challenges and opportunities.”

“I have been proud of how the Town has incorporated preserving the Gullah culture within the Historic District,” said Councilman Fred Hamilton. “Telling our collective story is important to preserving our past as well as creating a ‘sense of place’ for the future.”

This symposium also celebrates the 23rd anniversary of the designation of the Bluffton Historic District to the National Register of Historic Places.

“For the past three years, there has been standing room only at this symposium,” said Town Manager Marc Orlando. “The popularity of this annual historic preservation symposium indicates an authentic desire for many to have a greater understanding of our past residents and how their contributions have shaped our Town’s identity today.”

Orlando also said, on behalf of the Town, he wants to sincerely thank Joanie Heyward, who has helped organize and coordinate the event for the past years and is a constant champion for the preserving Bluffton’s history.

For more information, contact Vicki Smalls at or 843-706-7826.