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Mayor’s memo: Planning critical to Hardeeville’s growth

  • Harry Williams

The recent announcement of Latitude Margaritaville is exciting news for Hardeeville and the entire region. Growth is coming to Jasper County, and careful planning is critical to the intelligent use of our resources and the protection of our environment.

Hardeeville is fortunate to have an experienced staff to guide the city through the intricate process of transforming our 13 Planned Development Districts into productive industrial, commercial and residential enterprises.

Good planning must start with a well-thought-out Comprehensive Plan for the entire city.

That core document is the foundation on which the city plans its vision and must be updated by the Planning Commission every five years.

This process, currently in progress, is led by the city’s planning director, Brana Snowden.

Snowden guides the Planning Commission, composed of five residents of Hardeeville and chaired by Ron Kreiling, as they analyze Hardeeville’s future land uses. They meet once a month. Their work results in updates to the Master Plan and other ordinance recommendations to the City Council.

Snowden, who has a master’s degree in city and regional planning from Clemson University, has more than 11 years of service to Hardeeville and brings experience working for Bluffton and Charleston County.

She is a central figure in our economic development efforts with her knowledge of the planning and permitting process, the city’s zoning and development ordinances, and her firsthand participation in the writing of the city’s 13 development agreements. “Process for Progress” is the guiding principle of Brana’s department, without which chaos would logjam the system. Developers know they can receive a clear road map for their project and get timely approval of their site plans. All modifications to the site plans are clearly spelled out so there is no question as to the proper course a developer must take to obtain all necessary permits.

Working with Snowden is Katie Woodruff, who has been with Hardeeville close to four years, coming to the city after working for Bluffton.

This is valuable experience as Bluffton has faced many of these same planning challenges. In addition to helping with Site Plans, the Comprehensive Plan and the Planning Commission, Woodruff looks to the future as her title suggests: Long-Range Division Manager. These duties include Downtown Development, Property Improvement Program, LATS (Low Country Access Transportation Study) technical committee, and now coordinating with Retail Strategies, our marketing consultants.

Hardeeville has had a surge of building, but the process continues to flow smoothly. That’s where Ashley Moody, permit technician, plays a pivotal role. Each commercial and residential building must have a permit, certificates of completion and occupancy, electrical and gas service releases, and multiple building inspections scheduled on a daily basis. Moody has kept our process running like a Swiss clock for the past five years.

All the plans and ordinances are meaningless unless they are enforced. That’s why the city hired a code enforcement official, Dan Gooding, in late 2015,; and the city once again will benefit from his experience in Bluffton.

In addition to helping with permitting for building projects, signs and tree-clearing, Gooding patrols the city for violations to the Municipal Zoning Development Ordinance (MZDO) and the Municipal Code. The city’s goal is to achieve a planned community as envisioned by the Comprehensive Plan.

He also visits local businesses when accommodation and hospitality taxes and business license fees are past due, thereby assuring that the city collects all revenue due.

Based on the current rate of building and the arrival of Latitude Margaritaville, Hardeeville can expect a minimum of 500-600 homes per year by 2019.

That number could increase as Hardeeville continues to attract new industrial development in areas like River Port and our Commerce Park at Exit 5, and new commercial projects at Exit 8 and other areas.

Good planning, efficient processes and strict enforcement will create the city that we all envision, a city we all will be proud of, and a city that protects and enhances its valuable resources.

Harry Williams is the mayor of Hardeeville.

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