Business owners asking Bluffton officials to consider new parking proposal

Business owners asking Bluffton officials to consider new parking proposal

BLUFFTON, SC (WTOC) - Bluffton business owners will be asking town council members to consider a proposal that could add more than a hundred parking spaces in Old Town.

Merchants say limited parking in the historic district is taking a toll on their shops.

There's about two acres of land for sale in Old Town, and business owners say this could be the answer to all of Bluffton's parking problems, but there's a catch. It costs almost $3 million, and the town says it cannot afford that risk.

"Spending $3 million dollars on two acres in town, internal with no road frontage is not the best use of money," said Bluffton Mayor Lisa Sulka.

Mayor Sulka said council looked at the proposal and decided it was a cost the town could not afford, but business owners disagree.

"I think if this idea were given to the public in a public forum, in a workshop form, I think this is money well spent. This is money that people would get behind," said Ted Huffman, Bluffton BBQ owner.

At a forum Monday night, more than a dozen merchants say a parking lot between the Promenade and Goethe Road, central Old Town would indefinitely solve Bluffton's parking headaches.

"The more the word gets out that we have no parking, the less people are going to come and without vision of long term solutions of that, I think we're dead in the water," said Huffman.

But the town says it does have a vision and it involves utilizing spaces available, leasing parking lots from private owners, and saving taxpayers millions of dollars.

"We have 200 plus spots at Oyster Factory Park, within a circle or a five minute walk to historic Bluffton. We have the parking lot at our town hall. We own Bluffton Village," said Mayor Sulka.

But business owners don't think that vision is forward thinking enough.

"Thirty spaces here and twenty spaces there and 15 spaces here is not going to do it. We could have a state of the art facility over here," said Huffman.

Merchants say they will be requesting a workshop with the council to further discuss the proposal. The mayor says it's up to council to make a decision about a meeting.

"If they want to talk about this particular project, that's up to council. I did not hear one person from council say this is worth pursuing. I will allow council to decide that," said Mayor Sulka.

"That's all we wanted to begin with, was a seat at the table to let the public absorb this. Let the public decide if this is money well spent," Huffman said.

She says the council is planning on designating funds in the 2016-2017 Fiscal Year Budget to address parking issues.

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