Mayor Lisa Sulka: The state of Bluffton

It’s a great time to live, work, play and love Bluffton. As a town, we know who we are and where we are going. Bluffton has recently been recognized as a municipal leader in areas such as financial management, economic development and revitalization. National and regional media outlets, such as Money Magazine, continue to bestow titles on our town as one of the best places to retire and live. Garden & Gun Magazine recently named Bluffton  “A Southern Dream Town.”  As a municipal leader, I am proud of our town and the people who work so diligently to create a place which many want to be a part.

Like it or not, Bluffton is no longer a well-kept secret. We are well aware development will come and town leaders continually strive to partner with these projects and direct them in the best ways to protect our natural resources and lifestyle. Each year Town Council, together with our residents, evaluates our long-term vision and annual strategic plan to ensure our projects and policies reflect our values.  

Many ask “How we keep our small town charm?” While the process may be complex at times, the answer is simple. We keep our values in the forefront of every decision. The Town has a covenant that guides us in our quest for balance. Below is the first part of this agreement between our residents:       

As citizens of Bluffton, South Carolina, we hold the following to be true:

That social, cultural and economic diversity and inclusiveness are the essence of our community;

That we bear responsibility for the stewardship of nature’s blessings entrusted to us in Bluffton and along the May River;

That freedom and civic duty work hand-in-hand to create a culture of individuality and a sense of community;

That our natural, physical and cultural history are worthy of our protection as trustees in order for us to embrace our future.

Our people and our lifestyle are what differentiate Bluffton from other towns. Below are some examples of how the town strives to be progressive as we “build community” and honor our values with every project.

  • Economic Development: 
    • Developers Blanchard & Calhoun will build out Buckwalter Place. Its plans include an 113,000 square-foot Kroger marketplace, multi-family residential units, parks and open space.
    • The Don Ryan Center for Innovation continues to flourish; its current and graduated 19 companies have added 77 employees and more than $4 million to the region’s annual payroll. The center is also working with the Beaufort County School District to nurture the innovative spirit at every age and skill level.
    • New residential homes are exploding around Bluffton, especially in Hampton Lake, Hampton Hall, Palmetto Bluff and Old Town Bluffton.
  • Strong Financial Position:The town’s new fiscal year began July 1. The new consolidated budget is $3.5 million more than last year’s consolidated budget with no new tax increase. The additional revenue is generated through growth in the property tax base and construction permits due to Bluffton’s robust economy. 
  • Park Improvements: Renovations were recently completed at DuBois Park and Tom Herbkersman Commons as more seating, fencing and lighting were installed. The next phase of the May River Streetscape project will add more walkability to Old Town. Oyster Factory Park improvements are also scheduled for the fall; this project includes building a courtesy dock for boaters. As a reminder, the town has provided Wi-Fi at the following parks: Oscar Frazier, Oyster Factory and DuBois parks.
  • Natural Resources Protection:Town staff are also implementing projects aimed at improving water quality in the May River. One project, located in the Pine Ridge neighborhood, will collect stormwater in ponds and use that water for irrigation. In addition, the town continues to bring sewer lines to neighborhoods that use septic tanks. This is a benefit for residents as well as a safeguard against failed septic systems and a protection for the May River.  
  • Historic Preservation:The town will renovate the Garvin House, the only known former slave’s cottage on the May River. The house is located across from Oyster Factory Park and is a historic asset to Bluffton’s story.   
  • Bluffton Police Department:This year, the Bluffton Police Department received accreditation with excellence; the highest level of recognition of the re-accreditation process from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. The police deptartment also added a substation in Old Town Bluffton for better accessibility to residents and events.
  • Oyster Season:The season beginsin September; eating a Bluffton oyster is always a celebration of our coastal culture.

Lisa Sulka is mayor of Bluffton.