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A team of consultants helping Beaufort County, the city of Beaufort and the town of Port Royal implement a new form of development standards will now help Hilton Head Island "polish paradise."
The town has hired growth-management consultant Clarion Associates to rewrite its land management ordinance. Opticos Design and Architecture and Port Royal land-planning and engineering firm Ward Edwards are assisting Clarion.
The consultants were introduced to residents during a forum Monday intended to educate the public and seek its input on the process.
Town officials say the regulations formed to slow rapid growth in the 1990s are now obstacles to reinvestment for businesses as well as residents.
"We have our hands tied to do some of the things we felt were appropriate yet different from what had been done in the early days of the town," Tom Crews, chairman of the LMO Rewrite Committee, said after the forum.
"A lot of the (ordinance) was written ... out of fear -- that some things could happen that would slice and dice up paradise in a way we didn't want," added Crews, an island architect. "... We don't want to advertise there are tired parts of the community, but it's a reality. ... We need to polish paradise."
The topic became a defining issue in the 2010 mayoral and Town Council elections, prompting commitments from political leaders to make it easier to develop or redevelop property.
Much of the island was largely developed by the time the town was incorporated in 1983, and even more was built by 1987, when it first adopted a land management ordinance. Many island properties pre-dating the town's formation don't comply with those standards.
Recent changes to the ordinance were designed to make the planning code more flexible but haven't done enough to remove obstacles to development, said Town Councilman George Williams Jr., who attended the forum.
Craig Richardson, vice president of Clarion, said his consulting firm hopes to update and expedite town procedures by eliminating unnecessary reviews by boards and commissions. Town staff instead would be given the authority.
Other goals include consolidating zoning districts, allowing a broader range of land uses and reducing restrictions to "allow for market influence," Richardson said.
The rewrite will also focus on creating flexible standards and incentives to encourage redevelopment of key areas.
Richardson said the process, budgeted at about $200,000, will take eight months, during which time the public will be asked to comment on draft proposals.