The Town of Bluffton will not endorse or support the proposed Hilton Head National Golf Course development plans as presented recently to the Beaufort County Council.
At the Feb. 14 town council meeting, Mayor Lisa Sulka and council members unanimously approved a resolution that read they are “generally opposed to the zoning map amendment application, as the subsequent development will negatively impact the strategic focus areas for the Town of Bluffton including the May River and Surrounding Watersheds, Community Quality of Life, and Public Infrastructure.”
Scratch Golf LLC made its initial request to the Beaufort County Council in September 2013 for a zoning change to the nearly 300 acres of land on the Bluffton Parkway across from Tanger 2 Outlet.
The county council denied that request, stating the plans had not accounted for impact on traffic and the environment. The third and latest application for zoning changes, submitted in December 2016, included impact statements and a scaled-down development proposal.
Hilton Head National is located in part of unincorporated Beaufort County and not Bluffton. Under the Southern Beaufort County Regional Plan, the county and the towns of Bluffton and Hilton Head Island work together in a joint effort to manage growth and its impact on the area.
In the case of this application, Bluffton, the Town of Hilton Head Island and the Beaufort County School System were given the opportunity last summer to review the request and respond with their concerns and comments.
“We felt like we needed to submit our voice, however the vote goes,” said Sulka, “so our counterpart Tabor Vaux and others can take this to their council to tell them where the Town of Bluffton stands.”
Heather Colin, the town’s director of growth management, presented the resolution to council, explaining the zoning designations as well as highlighting the core of the document.
The current zones are rural – areas of sparsely settled land in an open or cultivated state, and regional center mixed use – permitting a full range of retail, service and office uses.
Scratch Golf LLC is requesting changes to the designations of “hamlet neighborhood,” “hamlet center open district,” and “neighborhood center” – creating, Colin said, a mixed-use community.
The Town’s resolution further states that the proposed zoning amendment request would adversely impact the Bluffton Parkway traffic and transportation patterns, and will negatively impact community quality of life and public infrastructure.
Councilman Harry Lutz told council that in discussing the development with county officials, they were concerned about the property owners seeking annexation if the proposal was turned down.
“I made it clear that we had no interest in annexation of the property,” Lutz said. “I also got an overall feeling from our council and Beaufort County that they were concerned that the owners would get the zoning change and then walk away from the property and not develop it, and then sell off those areas that would benefit them to whoever the highest bidder was. I think we need to see more meat in the (proposal) regarding those scenarios.”
Sulka requested that a statement be added to the resolution concerning the annexation.
“I think it would be very comforting to Beaufort County Council to see that this current council has no desire to consider annexation,” she said.
Following the unanimous vote, she had one more statement to make concerning the town’s growth.
“Those who are out here, I think you see we are getting very tight on things. We’ve had 20 years of development in this town, and I think we see a group of people who are very interested in the control of growth and traffic and our environment,” said Sulka. “We’re giving our two cents on it. I hope everyone here realizes that we’re focused on keeping our quality of life.”
Gwyneth J. Saunders is a veteran journalist and freelance writer living in Bluffton.