Bluffton’s Covenant

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

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 is worthy of our protection as trustees in order for us to embrace our future;

Acknowledging these truths, we aspire to the following goals:
To build upon our historic foundation a future that celebrates diversity, nurtures neighborliness and ensures a future of opportunity for generations to come;

To enhance the natural beauty and the quality of the May River and its watershed;

To protect the architectural heritage of Old Town Bluffton;

To enhance the canopy of trees and natural landscape throughout Bluffton;

To engage the creative human spirit and the arts within Bluffton;

To protect and enhance the oyster, shrimping and fishing opportunities of the May River;

To provide housing opportunities for all citizens that are decent, affordable, and Bluffton beautiful;

To nurture respect for each citizen.

Restaurant Review: Old Town Dispensary

The Old Town Dispensary is an indoor/outdoor restaurant on Calhoun Street. Known for great live music and a solid menu, the Old Town Dispensary was originated by Matt Jording who also owns the Sage Room on Hilton Head Island. I will tell you in advance, we like this place and recommend the grouper.

rud·der·less  (rŭd′ər-lĭs) – adj. 1. Lacking in direction, control, or coherence

While walking around the Old Town area, we thought we might want to get something to eat. It was nearly 9pm on a Friday night and we wanted to make sure our intended destination was serving. We called from 4 or 5 blocks away and they confirmed they served until 10 on weekends. Upon arriving we saw a few tables outside that were empty. We approached the Hostess Stand and inquired. She said those tables were reserved and there was a 15 minute wait for outside seating. We asked if there was a wait for inside, and she said there was not. So we went inside and went to the table we had we had suggested was suitable for us to eat. The hostess took no action. We sat and waited for about 10 minutes. Then I got up and waited in line at the bar. They were quite busy and one of the servers nearly ran me over as I guess I was blocking her lane. Good hip check lady – I guess we aren’t much for hockey in the south – who knew dining was a reasonable alternative?

I waited my turn and spoke to one of the bartenders. I was ready to order as we knew we wanted – Mic Ultra for her, dark beer on tap for me and the grouper. The bartender did get our beverages and asked if we wanted a server. I said that was fine. I returned to the table, and the bartender dropped off our drinks. Then we waited … and waited …and waited. I did see the bartender go into the backroom (private server area) and I assume he told someone we were here. It’s hard to tell if there was a manager as it was kind of a free for all. My wife was a career server with 25 years of experience on Hilton Head and I worked on both sides of the house managing kitchens and servers for 15 years before opening my own (not restaurant) business. We knew what we were looking at, and it was chaos.

After about 25 more minutes, we had about finished our drinks and concluded, we would not be served food in a timely manner. We laughed at the crazy scene and decided to leave. We knew we wouldn’t be missed. I again fought my way to the bar to pay and answered 5 or 6 questions for a different bartender so she could figure out how to check us out. We were clearly flying under the radar.

Some version of the band Cornbred was playing and they are always good, so we hung around outside for a short while catching a few tunes, finishing our beverages. We noticed the table we had initially inquired about was still empty, so we went and sat down. 5 minutes later the Hostess approached us and asked if we were going to eat? I briefly explained to her our experience the past 35 minutes and she started to explain to us about the restrictions of that table before deciding walking away without completing that thought was for the best. We also wondered off into the darkness shortly thereafter and laughed durning our walk home knowing that we could have easily left without paying – who would have remembered us – clearly no one. We did leave a 20% tip as all good F & B people do – despite receiving literally no service. The irony was not lost on us.

Will we go back – sure! Why not. It’s a good place. Although we may skip Friday night searches for food. I guess it’s like everything in Bluffton – the demand is huge and the quality is hit and miss. It’s a “Habitat for Amenities” as one of my good friends used to joke, along with “It could be worse.”

The Inflation Act and Heirs’ Property

By: Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation

President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law on Tuesday afternoon.  The Inflation Reduction Act will incentivize unprecedented shifts toward renewable energy, electric vehicles, and curbing methane emissions from fossil fuel production. The historic bill also includes billions for sustainable agriculture and includes a provision that provides debt relief to underserved landowners including farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners. 

“A critical component of this landmark bill is that it includes appropriations of $250 million to provide grants and loans to improve land access including heirs’ property and fractionated land issues,” said Dr. Jennie L. Stephens, Chief Executive Officer for the Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation. “We thank Congress for including these important investments for underserved farmers, foresters, and landowners. The funding in this bill will hopefully allow us to increase the number of South Carolina families we are able to help not only in keeping their land, but in creating wealth for future generations.”

Heirs’ property is a significant issue in South Carolina and refers to land that has been passed from one generation to the next without a will so that the land is owned “in common” by multiple heirs. Heirs’ property is the leading cause of Black land loss in the country.

Earlier this year, the United States Department of Agriculture announced members of their newly established Equity Commission and its Subcommittee on Agriculture, of which, Dr. Jennie L. Stephens was appointed.

“The members of the Agriculture Subcommittee, of which I serve, have been discussing this historic bill and we have been ecstatic about the programs that will benefit historically underserved landowners,” Stephens said.  “Regarding the land access assistance, I’m very pleased that heirs’ property families can now benefit from grants received by nonprofit organizations to resolve title issues.  Our hope is that The Inflation Reduction Act marks a major turning point in the long struggle to provide Black farmers with not only loan relief and restructuring for farmers in financial distress, but also compensation for those who can prove they were subject to USDA discrimination in the past.”

About

The Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation™ has been protecting heirs’ property through legal education and direct legal services since 2005. In 2013, the Center began promoting the sustainable use of land through forestry education and services to provide increased economic benefit to low-wealth family landowners. The Center provides legal and forestry services in Allendale, Bamberg, Beaufort, Berkeley, Calhoun, Charleston, Clarendon, Colleton, Darlington, Dillion, Dorchester, Florence, Georgetown, Hampton, Horry, Jasper, Lee, Marion, Marlboro, Orangeburg, Sumter and Williamsburg counties. 

To date, the Center has provided 3,569 persons with free, one-hour “Advice and Counsel” (A&C) with 955 clients receiving direct legal services to clear title. A total of 1,418 simple wills have been drafted at free, community Wills Clinics; more than 503 families (who collectively own more than 40,000 acres) have benefited from various levels of education and expert resources to develop and implement sustainable forestry management plans and 301 titles have been cleared on family land with a total tax-assessed value of $18.3 million.

Town of Bluffton Officials Really Bad at Running Police Department

Dateline Bluffton:

Bluffton Police Chief Stephenie Price has resigned, after less than two years as chief. When Price was hired in 2020 she was the department’s fourth chief in three years.

Price replaced Christopher Chapmond, who surprised the town by leaving after less than two years in Bluffton.

Chapmond had taken over for  Joseph Manning in 2018, who spent  nine months as chief.

Before that,  short-timer Joey Reynolds,  left the job amid controversy over hefty overtime payments and bad behavior by officers.

It seems that the Town of Bluffton has issues managing a Police Department and most chiefs last less than 2 years.

It looked like Price was on the right track at first. We guess, only the really really bad chiefs last longer than two years in Bluffton.

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A Brief History of Bluffton – The W. Hunter Saussy Version circa 1982

A Brief History of Bluffton

by W. Hunter Saussy

    To understand the history of Bluffton it is necessary to have some knowledge of its geographic location and the history of adjacent areas such as Hilton Head, St. Helena, Port Royal and other barrier islands for the people who first settled Bluffton were of the same families that earlier developed those places.

While Port Royal St. Helena and Hilton Head were first explored by the Spanish in 1520, the French in 1562 and finally colonized by the English in 1670, the lower parts of what is now Beaufort County, which includes the Bluffton area, were considered “Indian Lands”. This situation existed until after the Yemassee Indian War which began in 1715. After a long, sporadic and bloody struggle the Yemassees and their Indian allies were finally defeated in 1728 and removed from the area; with the majority of the surviving Yemassees going to what is now south Georgia and Florida where they were absorbed into the Seminole tribe.

After the removal of the Yemassees the area was opened for settlement by white colonists. Purrysburg on the South Carolina side of the Savannah River, was settled by Swiss colonists in 1732 and Savannah was settled in 1733 by the English under General Oglethorpe.

Before these settlements were formed, the Lord Proprietors who controlled the Carolinas under a charter from King Charles II, granted themselves in 1718 additional baronies of approximately 13,000 acres each in these formerly “Indian Lands”. The Devil’s Elbow Barony, which covered an area between the Colleton and Okatie Rivers on the north, the May River on the south, Mackey’s Creek on the east, and a line drawn from Linden plantation on the May River to and including Rose Hill plantation on the May River to and including Rose Hill plantation on the Okeetee River, was drawn by lot Sir John Colleton and deeded to him on December 5, 1718.

The original Sir John did very little with this barony as he had other and more developed baronies in other parts of the Carolinas including his main barony, Fairlawn, in what became Berkeley County near Charleston. Finally his grandson, a so a Sir John Colleton, did develop some plantations in the Victoria Bluff – Foot Point areas. These plantations were destroyed by the British under General Provost in 1779 during the American Revolution.

This Sir John Colleton died in 1776, but prior to his death he divided the western half of Devil’s Elbow Barony into six tracts and sold them. A tract of 680 acres, which included the present town of Bluffton, went to Benjamin Walls.

Following the Revolutionary War, and with the invention of the cotton gin at Mulberry Grove plantation on the Savannah River, cotton, and particularly the long-staple cotton grown on the sea islands, became the chief money crop of the island plantations; and, together with rice grown an the mainland plantations bordering the fresh water rivers; the Savannah and New Rivers, brought great prosperity. Summers on a plantation and especially on a rice plantation were not the most healthful. The intense heat and the hoards of malaria and yellow fever carrying mosquitoes brought illness and death, primarily to the white population of the plantations. It was for this reason that the wealthy planters began to look for a healthier place to keep their families. And the area we now call the town of Bluffton was the ideal choice. With its high bluff and huge spreading live oak trees and facing directly into the prevailing cool, southeast summer breezes, the area had the healthful climate thy south. It was also easily accessible by water to their working plantations on the islands and on the mainland.

So began the real history of Bluffton. The first summer homes were built here in the early 1800s. There is evidence of the Pope and the Kirk families being here shortly after 1800. Unfortunately information on the period between the American Revolution and up to 1860 is very scanty. All of the Beaufort County Court House records of the period were destroyed by General William Tecumseh Sherman’s cavalry in 1865 while being moved from the Court House in Gillisonville to Columbia for safekeeping. Our main source of information of the antebellum period comes from old family letters, a few memories written by persons who visited the area, some church records, wills and some articles in the Savannah and Charleston news papers of that time.

We do know that the healthy climate and beauty of the area began to draw more and more planters here, not only to summer but for year round residency. Sometime during the 1830s the town was formally laid out under a street plan that still exists today.

In the period between the 1830s and the 1860s Bluffton continued to grow. It was first know as “May River”, then later as “Kirk’s Bluff’. In the early 1840s a mass meeting was called under the leadership of R. Barnwell Rhett to have the village change its name to Bluffton for the high banks on which it stands and as a compromise between the Kirk and Pope families, each of which wanted the town named for them. The first reference to “Bluffton” appeared in an advertisement in the Savannah paper of July 1843: `of boat service to Bluffton’.

Two large churches, one Episcopal and one Methodist, were built and a private school was started by Prof. Hugh F Train, a Scotsman brought over to tutor the children of the wealthy planters. The poet Henry Timrod also taught in this private school. Several stores started on Calhoun Street and a Masonic Lodge was organized.

Despite its peacefulness and beauty, Bluffton was also a boiling political center during the unsettled years before the War Between the States. The first secession movement in South Carolina is said to have started in Bluffton in 1844.

Bluffton as a town was finally incorporated in 1852.

 All of this affluence came to a grinding halt with the outbreak of the War between the States and the capture of Hilton Head Island by Federal forces on November 17, 1861. Most of the white population fled temporarily to Bluffton due to the Federal troops and gun boats, the entire population of Bluffton was soon evacuated to safer havens in the interior, such as Grahamville, Gillisonville, Allendale, etc. Bluffton became a deserted place with homes, furniture and belongings all abandoned.

    During 1862 Federal troops and gun boats visited Bluffton on three occasions, but other than removing furnishings from the deserted houses which they used to furnish their quarters at Fort Pulaski the town was not damaged.

During this period the town was used by Confederate forces a headquarters from which pickets, or lookouts, were distributed at various points along Calibogue Sound and the May River. These pickets were to report any movements by the Federals up the May River to the Confederate cavalry stationed at Pritchardville, about eight miles west of Bluffton.

    Early in June of 1863 General David Hunter, the commander at Hilton Head, ordered Colonel Barton, the commander at Fort Pulaski, to take his troops and destroy the town of Bluffton. Without going into detail as to the military operation involved, as this is another full story in itself, the town was set on fire and apparently two-thirds of the houses, including most of the better ones along the bluff, were destroyed on June 4, 1863. The two churches and approximately fifteen of the residences in the center of the town escaped destruction. Of these, two churches and eight of the houses remain today.

   After the war, with their homes burned, their Hilton Head plantations confiscated by the Federal Government, and their rice plantations along the New and Savannah Rivers in ruin, many were bankrupt by the war and their Bluffton properties were sold for taxes.

Some families did return however and these together with new people who moved in from other parts of the state, primarily from Hampton, Colleton and Beaufort counties and a few from the North, began to rebuild Bluffton. This time the people were mainly merchants, not planters, and in time Bluffton became the commercial center for this part of Beaufort County with an economy tied very closely to the May River and forest products. Bluffton also continued to draw many summer visitors to their homes along the bluff. By the early 1900s Bluffton boasted seven or eight large general stores along Calhoun Street carrying everything the people needed to sustain themselves, from hardware and dry goods to molasses and groceries. Practically everything that came into and left Bluffton did so by river boats which maintained regular passenger and freight services between Savannah and Bluffton with stops at Daufuskie, Spanish Wells, and Palmetto Bluff then known as “Halsey’s”. Bluffton was once again a prosperous, peaceful and healthy place in which to live or vacation.

This second phase of Bluffton’s history came to a close following the building of the Coastal Highway, (US 17), and the bridging of the Savannah River at Port Wentworth in 1926. People living in the area could now drive to Savannah for their shopping; freight now arrived and left by trucks; and the river boats which were such a vital and picturesque part of Bluffton’s past disappeared from the scene. Bluffton as a trading center began to decline.

Bluffton, as in the past, continued to draw summer residents who treasured the cool breezes and general beauty of May River estuary. However it was the development of Hilton Head Island and the bridging of Mackey and Skull Creeks in the 1950s and the building of the Talmadge Bridge and the short route to Savannah which brought prosperity back to the area.

    Today people say, “Bluffton is a way of life” or, “Bluffton is a state of mind”. In either case, Bluffton with its historic past, its beautiful bluff and river estuary, its healthy climate, and its quiet peaceful atmosphere, continues to charm everyone who will take the opportunity to visit it.

* Based on a talk given by W. Hunter Saussy Founder and President Emeritus, at the first general membership meeting of the Bluffton Historical Preservation Society, 31 January 1982.

Saving The May River

About a decade ago, as part of an environmental restoration grant application, about 500 homes near the river were reported to have septic tanks. That number has not changed significantly in the last ten years, in part because most home construction since then have been connected to sewer systems rather than septic tanks.

Yet, we have an increasingly damaging problem with pollution entering the May River.

“The clearing of land for sprawling suburban development is directly linked to the impaired waterways because without enough natural land cover left intact to serve its filtering function, stormwater carries sediment and pollutants across impervious surfaces and directly into the rivers.” (Schueller & Holland, 2000).

While efforts to provide sanitary sewers as broadly as possible are encouraging, these efforts can also divert attention from the leading cause of polluted runoff – poor planning and inappropriate development patterns leading to sprawl.

Similarly, the limited focus of current testing is hindering our monitoring efforts. Testing that is infrequent or that is restricted to only fecal coliform provides little information about safety risks and long term pollution trends. Because of these testing limits, we actually don’t know how safe it is to swim in the headwaters of the May River. Per the Coastal Conservation League, “if the greater Bluffton area is developed according to the approvals as they currently exist, impervious surface will exceed 20% in the May River watershed and edible May River oysters will be a thing of the past.”

So, while the removal of septic tanks is a small part of the solution, it is not, in and of itself, the total solution. We need to focus on smarter land use. Without correcting our problems with suburban sprawl, we will not succeed.

Bluffton Police Assessment for CALEA

There are some who would say the Bluffton Police receiving accrediation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies board in 2009 was nothing less than laughable. They went through the accrediation process faster than any department previously. Others might say the accredidation made it harder to control a bad police chief. But, nonethelss the town of Bluffton has invited public comments as part of a regular assessment of the police department.

A news release said the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies is assessing the Bluffton Police Department “to verify that BPD continues to comply with best practices and internationally accepted professional law enforcement standards.”

“The accreditation program requires agencies to comply with state-of-the-art standards in four basic areas: policy and procedures, administration, operations, and support services,” the town said. ”

Personnel and community members “are invited to offer comments at a public information session” starting at 6 p.m. Aug. 8. The release said the comment session will end after the last speaker is heard.

“The session will be conducted via Microsoft Teams with the assessors,” the town said, adding that the link will be provided on its social media channels. CALEA assessors also will accept calls from commenters from 1-3 p.m. Aug. 8 at 843-706-4598.

Written comments can be sent to Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA) 13575 Heathcote Blvd., Suite 320, Gainesville, Virginia, 20155.

Residents can apply on online at https://www.townofbluffton.sc.gov/FormCenter/Police-11/Citizens-Police-Academy-80. For more information, contact Sgt. Craig Karafa (ckarafa@townofbluffton.com) or Lt. Mike Danyov (mdanyov@townofbluffton.com).

Interview With a Former Greater Bluffton Pathways Board Member

Blufftonian: What was Greater Bluffton Pathways?

Buzz McBike: The Mission Statement was to safely connect people and places in Greater Bluffton with pathways and walkways.

Blufftonian: Did it succeed?

Buzz McBike: Between 2005 and 2009 quite a bit was accomplished working with Beaufort County. That is when the pathways on Bluffton Parkway and Buckwalter  Parkway were installed. We also helped facilitate the pathways around McCracken Circle and the Beaufort County Rail Trail. The pathway at New Riverside was installed by the developer and is probably the Town of Bluffton’s only significant installation.

Blufftonian: What’s the difference between a sidewalk and a pathway?

Buzz McBike: What we were looking for was the installation of 10′ to 12′ pathways suitable for walking and biking. A sidewalk will not accommodate both at once. I will offer a little more below.

Blufftonian: Do you consider the organization a success?

Buzz McBike: Yes and No. I don’t think you can consider Bluffton a walk / bike friendly community. The pathways along the parkways aren’t much fun and they are a bit on the dangerous side. We never really connected Savannah to Old Town and Old Town to Hilton Head, which would have been ideal, but we did accomplish a few things as mentioned above.

Blufftonian: Is it free to ride into Palmetto Bluff?

Buzz McBike: I don’t think it is. It was originally, but that changed somewhere along the lines. Too bad. It’s a nice place to ride. New Riverside is a pretty good riding path as most of it is away from the road; unlike the parkways. But you have to navigate the traffic circle to connect to anything. On the bright side, the further you get from Old Town the more polite the drivers are, so crossing the traffic circle is doable. Plus, it’s a bigger circle which gives pedestrians and bikers a greater certainty of the situation as they try to cross. The little circle at RTE 46 and Bluffton Parkway is dangerious for bikers and pedestrians.

Blufftonian: What’s your best recommendation to Blufftonians who want to ride a bike?

Buzz McBike: Put your bike on a bike rack and drive to Hilton Head. It’s pretty close and they have 100+ miles of pathways and 14 miles beaches that are rideable (except at high tide). My wife and I rode 4000 miles on the beach in one year not too long ago, and it was awesome. And, the pathways over there go everywhere. Please make sure you recognize for safety’s-sake that cars always have the right-of-way on Hilton Head Island. That being said, It’s pretty fantastic!

Types of Pathways

Off Road Multi-Use Paths, Leisure Trails and Rail Trails are the same type of bike facility.    Hilton Head Island has 35 public miles of this type of pathway.  Great for families, joggers, walkers, rollerbladers, wheelchairs, baby strollers.  Not suitable for some commuters and cyclists who want a straight fast route and who bike for exercise.  Width (8’ vs 14’), surface quality and maintenance of trail will determine how many people will use these trails on a regular basis.  Generally, the wider, the better, though ten feet wide is the current recommended standard. Narrower pathways create conflict between pedestrians and cyclists.  Concrete or asphalt surface is preferred by most people.

Sidewalks – 5 ft. width is recommended by AASHTO[1]  Cyclists should not ride on sidewalks (with the exception of small children)

Shared Roadways – Bicyclists are legally able to use all roadways, but today many connector roads are seen as unsafe because of traffic speed or traffic volume. All of the following pathways are less expensive than Off Road Multi-Use Paths and each serves a particular purpose.  Many adult cyclists as well as motorists can be comfortable “Sharing the Road.”

Bike Routes on Quiet Roads – Many rural roads in Jasper, Colleton and Hampton Counties have beautiful vistas with low traffic volume.  Bluffton, Beaufort, Port Royal, Yemassee have Historic Districts which are very conducive for exploring by bike. Other than maps and website posting to show suggested routes, no additional funding is necessary.

Wide Curb Lanes – Main Streets such as Paris Ave. in the town of Port Royal has a low volume of traffic and 35 mph or less speed limit with 14’-16’ wide travel lanes.  Cyclists usually feel they have plenty of room to ride comfortably and safely.  When parking is added along these streets, safety diminishes somewhat for the cyclist.

Paved Shoulders   – SC DOT is adding these to both sides of the road along parts of Rt. 170, Rt. 21 and Rt. 46. Additional shoulder width is recommended on heavily traveled and high-speed roads and those carrying large numbers of trucks and RV’s.

4 foot minimum when no curb is present.

5 foot minimum against curb, parking, or guardrail

6 feet recommended for ultimate comfort and safety[2]

Bike Lanes –  Bike lanes carry bike traffic in the same direction as adjacent motor vehicle traffic and should be placed on the right side of the street in each direction of travel.  Most bike lanes are 5-6 feet wide. Bike lanes define and identify bicycling locations. These can be incorporated into a roadway when it is desirable to set aside available road space for preferential use by bicyclists and motorists, and to provide for more predictable movements by each.  Bike lane markings (stencil of cyclist with arrow showing direction of travel) can increase a cyclist’s confidence in motorists not straying into their path of travel. Tinting the bike lane is helpful.  See AASHTO Manual for additional guidelines.

Visit the web archive of the Greater Bluffton Pathways Group

 

Hell Scared Out Of Bluffton Commissioner By Pickleball

Planning Commission tables proposed Bluffton pickleball club 

Current plans for site include 222 parking spaces, restaurant and clubhouse The last national pickleball tournament had about 2,300 registered players in attendence.

“How can a site like that with 200 parking spaces handle 2,300 people over the time of the tournament?” Commissioner Charles Wetmore said. “That scares the hell out of me.”

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