Popular Vote: Bluffton Mayor Lisa Sulka


sulkaFor the first column in our new series called “POPULAR VOTE,” Lisa Sulka recently fielded questions from Monthly readers about current issues around town. Submit questions for local and statewide leaders to editor@hiltonheadmonthly.com, and watch this space for answers.

Q. The center of Old Town is certainly torn up right now with the infrastructure projects in front of Dollar General and on Mellichamp Drive. What is going on in each of these projects, who’s paying for them, and when will they be finished? 

A. The May River Road Streetscape Project is a partnership with the state Department of Transporation, which owns the road. Dr. Mellichamp Drive, too, is a state road; however, Town Council made the decision to add it to the town’s inventory of roads. So that project is going much quicker. Both projects will ease traffic and improve walkability, on-street parking and lighting, but most importantly, they will support private investment. The immediate results on May River are obvious, with the renovation of the Dollar General and the relocation of Downtown Deli, with its expanded catering and event space.


Town Council also recognizes the need for more parking in Old Town. Approximately 30 additional on-street parking spaces will be installed from Pin Oak Street to Whispering Pines. The Dr. Mellichamp Drive project will add 66 new parking spaces.

Question. Bluffton Town Council held a strategic planning workshop Jan. 18. What priorities were established?
A.  While many items were discussed, there were broad areas where Town Council has a strong passion, including housing, water quality and public infrastructure initiatives, as well as technology to enhance town operations, transparency and citizen engagement.

Q. How’s the renovation of Town Hall going? What will the finished product look like and offer town staff and citizens?

A. We are renovating our existing structure, which currently houses Town Hall offices, May River Theatre Co., and Calhoun Station. The work is scheduled to be complete by December and includes an approximately 5,000-square-foot addition for council chambers that will also serve as a municipal court and a site for public gatherings. Improvements also include upgrades to office and meeting space for Town Hall employees and a new customer service center to support citizen and customer requests, as well as state-of-the-art IT equipment.

Q. Are there plans to add sidewalks or pathways on Simmonsville Road from Bluffton Middle School to Buck Island Road to make it safer for students and other pedestrians and cyclists?

A. Sidewalks and pathways have been proven to strengthen neighborhoods. With a school in the middle of the Buck Island-Simmonsville neighborhood, the town understands the need for children to be able to walk to school without having to straddle a ditch or walk on the roadway. In addition to the $5 million water and sewer projects in this area, the town has spent $456,179 on sidewalk and lighting projects in the Buck Island-Simmonsville area, and we plan to do more in the future. 

Q. Bluffton Town Council just unanimously resolved to participate in the nonprofit South Carolina Environmental Law Project’s federal lawsuit against offshore drilling. Why?

A. We strongly believes that it is in the best interest of the town and its citizens. With other coastal communities, we want to protect our pristine Atlantic coastline and the economic advantages that Beaufort County and South Carolina derive from a coastline free from environmental degradation. 

Next month, Rep. Mark Sanford will answer reader’s questions. Please submit questions to editor@hiltonheadmonthly.com.