With the recent discussion about division and consensus-building, please review with me some of the work accomplished these past four years with near unanimous Town Council support. None of it was accomplished without the time and effort of citizens like you, so it's titled: "Just Look What You've Done!"
Infrastructure? Ten miles of sewer main placed, reducing failing septic systems and eliminating the possibility of new ones. Co-sponsored the engineering study for US 278 Gateway Corridor Improvements. Paved 10 dirt roads, and established an approximately $1 million annual source for more. Extended the Hilton Head Island Airport runway to 5,000 feet, enabling jet service. Partnered with Palmetto Breeze on a trolley route. Renourished beaches, and nearly completed the new USCB campus.
Planning? Vision Initiative Phase One complete, the first step in creating an actual land-use plan (Master Plan) for the island. Multi-story storage facility denied. LMO amended to "fix" density in Bradley Circle area and to close a loophole that allowed residences to physically combine into compounds. Proposed island-wide parking lots defeated. Created Public Planning Committee. Negotiated with Southeastern Development to reduce the height and footprint of apartment building at Shelter Cove. Doubled size of Shelter Cove Community Park and moved second building without any density increase. (Yes, that building behind Kroger was supposed to be bigger and taller. Thank you for returning to the table, Southeastern Development.)
Environment, Culture and Economy? Single-use plastic bag ban passed, effective Nov. 1. Spoke out early and strong opposing off-shore seismic testing and drilling. Office of Cultural Affairs established and volunteer Cultural Advisory Committee created to support it. Hired executive director for Mitchelville, now enjoying some county funding, with matching funds committed for initial work. Mayors' Task Force on Heritage Tourism created Beaufort County Heritage Tourism Corporation, so countless heritage assets will become unique, authentic experiences. Unanimously approved Beaufort County Economic Development Corporation, with its executive director, strategic plan, and affiliation with the SouthernCarolina Alliance, to work on economic opportunities that fit with our island values.
Recreation? Saved the Cordillo Courts tennis facility, now being revitalized. Finalized plans and let bids for construction of Lowcountry Celebration Park. Baseball fields reconditioned. The new Island Rec Center received the go-ahead - sought for over a decade - to expand, and now nears completion.
And Accountability. Moved Town's annual planning meeting from off-island to local venues. Received financial audit from the Arts Center, de-codified the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce, and established the Finance and Administrative Committee.
There's more: Created a director of communications position, authored a White Paper regarding the Rental Housing Tax Credit Program, hired a subject-matter expert to address workforce needs. The Venue Committee collected more data than I can convey, assuring us that arts, culture and history are thriving components of our quality of life and economy. Recommendations and results emerging from our Gullah-Geechee Land and Cultural Preservation Task Force, such as signage placed around the island to identify our historic Gullah neighborhoods.
Amazingly, we also endured and recovered from two hurricanes. And in all but one of the four years our budget has shrunk, from $90,143,000 in FY 2016 to $79,645,000 for FY 2019.
It's a long list but it's not exhaustive. I am proud and honored to have been a small part of the achievements. Of course, the biggest part has been accomplished by you, working together on issues that matter. Keep it up!
David Bennett is the mayor of the Town of Hilton Head Island. DavidB@hiltonheadislandsc.gov. Visit MayorDavidBennett.com to sign up for the mayor's newsletter.