A Note From Our Mayors
Author: David Bennett & Lisa Sulka | Photographer: M.Kat
A Note from David Bennett
Hilton Head News
Ask anyone in my family: I relish a good ride. Here on Hilton Head Island, we enjoy a fine array of excursions on ocean’s waves, calm inlets and marshes, leisure paths, wooded trails, and even through the air on ziplines and parasails. During March, I will enjoy some unique rides. I have the honor to sit in a 1966 Lincoln Continental for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and anticipate a grand trolley tour at the Heritage Library’s Hilton Head Island History Day. As your new mayor, perhaps the most compelling trip this month will be the commencement of the fiscal year 2016 budget cycle excursion.
Together, you and I, the town staff and Town Council will embark upon a multi-month journey of discussions and workshops to advantageously prioritize spending, culminating in the town’s FY16 budget, effective July 1, 2015. Be assured, I have deliberately acquired knowledge about funding sources, requirements, town operations and other topics necessary to engage in this process. I have sought input, advice and assistance from wise, talented citizens who volunteer time and expertise to research, gather data, and interview key people and organizations in matters pertaining to the success of our community. It’s vital to work with real tools and knowledge, not fuzzy numbers and fear.
Last December, Town Council established priorities, including delivery of sanitary sewer service to citizens who desire it. Why are sewers a priority? What should the town’s role and goal be for those unserved areas of our community, currently draining sewage into the ground upon which they stand? If a universal and sound sewer system protects the environment, are we remaining true to our environmental stewardship legacy when sewage seeps into our sandy soil in high seasonal water table areas?
As a developer, I know sanitary sewer access promotes economic activity. It increases values of real estate (our town’s largest economic driver) and invites additional improvements. These, in turn, increase available housing choices.
Providing sanitary sewer access to citizens who desire it is the right thing to do. But budgeting only the average annual amount of town committed capital spent over the last seven fiscal years will result in the completion of this project by roughly 2039 (assuming no increase in cost of labor and materials). And, Hilton Head Island has limited large tracts of land remaining, which makes the “Growth Pays for Growth” sewer policy we currently follow insufficient to complete the sewer system.
What are some real options? A State Revolving Fund currently has sufficient capital to lend to our PSD’s to complete our sanitary sewer project as quickly as we secure necessary easements and design and install the improvements. Terms are two percent interest with a 30-year amortization. This equates to an annual cost of less than $400,000, with no impact on local property taxes. Additionally, Hilton Head PSD may contribute some required capital, further reducing the cost. This is a priority we can accomplish!
Finally, I invite you to ride the Internet with me! I’ve established a website you may use to stay in touch and participate in surveys. Visit MayorDavidBennett.com.
A Note from Lisa Sulka
May River Road Streetscape Update
The May River Road streetscape project was recently discussed at a Town Council public workshop. This is the last phase of construction presently planned for this roadway. It will include construction of sidewalks, drainage, curb and gutter and parking from Pin Oak Street to Whispering Pines. The sidewalk will continue on the north side of the road from Whispering Pines to Jennifer Court and tie to existing sidewalk around Parker’s gas station. Lighting will continue from the existing completed section of May River Road to Whispering Pines, with sidewalk lights continuing on the north side of the road to Jennifer Court.
In addition to the basic design of the road, Council provided input on the proposed landscaping. Rest assured that every effort will be made to work with property owners to obtain landscape easements to provide additional landscaping to screen parking areas off street and beautify the area. To assure the health of the landscaping, irrigation will be installed, with water supplied from a well located on private property, which will be donated as an easement to the town. Additionally, we’ll work with property owners to reduce the number of driveway openings, which will increase opportunities for additional landscaping.
As you know, Town Council identified celebrating the May River as our number one priority during last year’s strategic planning effort. Thus, every capital improvement project the town undertakes looks for opportunities to address stormwater quality and quantity. The streetscape project is no different, and sediment basins as well as other best management practices (BMPs) will be constructed. An example of additional stormwater treatment options includes working with the owners of Stock Farm to create a basin on a portion of their open space. There will also be a smaller rain garden on the north side of the road by the Dollar General. Drain inlets are also likely to have treatment systems installed to remove pollutants and litter as the stormwater leaves the roadway.
An additional item discussed was a SC Department of Transportation (SCDOT) requirement to widen parking spaces to 10 feet and the effect it would have on trees. There was general consensus to eliminate the parking areas where significant trees may be affected and protect the trees close to the roadway by creating “bump outs”—areas where the curb is brought out to the drive lane to minimize disturbance around trees. No parking would be available in these areas, and the sidewalk would meander to follow the curb.
To capture the essence of this guidance for the design, staff is working with the consultant to develop a concept plan of the engineered design. This plan will be shared with the public and used by staff to illustrate to the property owners as we request their cooperation with obtaining construction, landscape and pedestrian easements. Our goal is to provide a vision of what the entryway into our National Register Historic District could look like with their active participation in the project.