A Note From Our Mayors
Author: David Bennett & Lisa Sulka | Photographer: Krisztian Lonyai
A Note from David Bennett
Seventy-one. Keep that number in mind.
There are moments when I am particularly proud of our extraordinary community. I find these moments refreshing, like sipping on an ice-cold glass of something I’m going to call “Island-ADE” during a hot and humid Hilton Head summer day. One of these moments occurred just this past week, at a meeting of the Town Council’s Public Facilities Committee, where I observed firsthand what our citizenry can accomplish when we take Aim at a goal, Dedicate ourselves and our resources to the hard work necessary to achieve it, and ultimately express our Excellence as a community (ADE). The progress reported regarding one of our key priorities was nothing less than impressive, and I felt like part of a championship team.
Our Island-ADE is truly becoming a signature brew, and the sewer initiative is a prime example. It was just a year ago during the summer of 2015, when your Town Council and town staff, and the Hilton Head PSD commissioners and employees came together at a highly publicized “Sewer Summit.” Taking aim at a goal of making sanitary sewer service available to every islander by the summer of 2020, and deciding to align our combined personnel and capital resources toward achieving it, the bar was indeed set high. The task was ambitious, the success of it having eluded our town for more than 25 years, since it was initially advocated by Hilton Head’s second mayor, Martha Baumberger. But now, with a specific target in our sights, your Town Council is determined to see this initiative succeed.
So what has been accomplished?
Many resources have engaged in this priority initiative. The Community Foundation of the Lowcountry has stepped up and joined in, establishing its own fundraising goal of $3 million for Project SAFE (Sewer Access for Everyone) and committing $500,000 to it. It is a mark of both environmental excellence and true philanthropy that low-to-moderate income homeowners will receive grants to cover sewer connection costs. Citizen volunteers have spearheaded the efforts to obtain the private easements necessary to permit the installation of improvements. In just five months, 71 easements were secured for the installation of Year-1 sewer line projects! And Club Corp, the owner/operator of the Golf Club at Indigo Run, donated an easement over ground it owns, which proved to be strategic as it allows Hilton Head PSD to accomplish the objective with one less pump station, saving several hundred thousand dollars. Hilton Head PSD’s construction plans for these improvements were diligently completed and all necessary permits have been received. Year-1 work is ready to be put out to bid within the next 30 to 45 days. These are significant steps toward success. This is the way we express our commitment to one another!
Pressing on to reach the goal, design work for Year-2 improvements is nearly complete, allowing the efforts to secure necessary easements for second-year projects to earnestly begin.
Island-ADE. It’s refreshing, isn’t it? Within the next four years, properties that for decades have been negatively impacted, will receive the improvements which advocates have long championed, benefitting those and that which is so precious to us—our people and our sensitive environment. It bears repeating that we have received a great heritage and must leave a lasting legacy. For now, I look forward to more invigorating Island-ADE as we make progress on our other town priorities and, with aim, alignment, devotion and engagement, achieve excellent results for ourselves and for our posterity.
A Note from Lisa Sulka
A Bluffton Update
It is no small feat to assemble a chorus of many and varied voices, eventually get the chorus to agree on a song, perform it well and get accolades from around the state for an impressive performance. That’s what happened when the Municipal Association of South Carolina awarded the Town of Bluffton an Achievement Award for implementation of its Old Town Master Plan, beating 25 other cities and towns and their projects for 2016. The Town of Bluffton’s 25 other competitors were South Carolina cities and towns with a population between of 10,001-20,000.
The award, which was presented in July during the association’s annual conference, is a testament to the voices and the visions of numerous citizens who came together a decade ago to share their ideas for Old Town. It is also a testament to all the business owners and investors who believed in Bluffton’s future. In 2006, town leaders adopted the Old Town Master Plan to help responsibly manage the town’s explosive growth, while preserving the Bluffton Historic District’s charming commercial district. For the past decade, the town has implemented this plan.
This long-range plan set 34 goals, aimed at preserving and promoting the town’s uniqueness as one of the South’s last coastal village towns. These goals fell into six categories, which guided the town’s policies, financial decisions and strategic planning. Those categories were: 1) creating policy/regulatory changes which supported the Old Town Master Plan; 2) using planning strategies; 3) implementing capital improvement projects; 4) promoting the district; 5) initiating economic development; 6) using funding mechanisms beyond tax dollars.
The town accomplished these major goals by adopting a form-based code, regulating building and site design as well as promoting mixed-use, denser development which was previously prohibited. The town also established business-friendly policies that streamlined its permitting process.
As mayor, what makes me very proud is seeing how sound pro-business policies and public investment have triggered a large private investment. To date, the town has invested $6 million in the Bluffton Historic District, which led to an additional $70 million in private investment—a more than ten to one return on investment.
Ten years ago, someone could have still referred to Bluffton as a “sleepy little town.” Now, with tens of thousands of visitors strolling through our streets, countless festivals and events, numerous feature articles in regional and national magazines, the Bluffton Historic District has come into its own.
We are proud to provide an example to other towns and cities that are developing their own economic development recipe. Bluffton has hosted public officials from several South Carolina cities who were researching ideas to implement.
Bluffton is now living the vision which was imagined back in 2006. Thanks to each of you who voice ideas, invest in business or eat meals in the Bluffton Historic District. Each of you contributes daily—and now we have a huge trophy celebrating our collective success.