The Town’s Department of Growth Management has started again to review plans and permits for new developments. The emergency permitting regulations and plans were in effect once the State of Emergency was declared and Matthew was here.

After the storm, staff from Building and Safety along with Bluffton Township Firemen drove through the streets of Bluffton to assess the damage. Within days after the storm passed (approximately 48 hours), the Town was assessed.

As of Oct. 20, 105 structures were determined to have minor damage (roof damage, broken windows, minor flooding, etc.) and identified with a green placard, 30 appeared to have more substantial damage and were identified with a yellow placard, and 6 homes were determined to be unsafe and uninhabitable and were posted with a red placard.

Emergency permits related to the storm are expedited and are not charged any permit application fees. Currently we have issued three demolition permits, one reroof permit, and six remodel permits.

Structures with green placards do not typically require a building permit for repairs. Structures with yellow or red placards most likely do require a building permit for the repairs; however, if it is just a repair with “like for like,” then less information is required. This includes photographs, previously approved plans, as-built drawings, or statements and verifications from contractors or owners.

Any deviation from the previous conditions will require a standard permit. For example, if you decide to remodel your kitchen with new walls and plumbing rather than just replacing the damaged cabinets, a standard permit is required.

Staff will continue to inspect with more detailed damage assessments as requested and prioritize emergency permits and inspections as needed.

Other notes from the recovery efforts:

  • No structures in the regulated floodplain were damaged as a result of flooding, which is an indication that our flood prevention measures are effective. This includes building practices such as dry flood proofing, installing hydrostatic vents, and free board requirement (building one foot higher than base flood).
  • The recovery operation came through with no injuries to the citizens or inspectors.
  • The staff is in the process of completing all paperwork and requirements for state and federal agencies.
  • Building safety inspectors have been assisting with the Town of Hilton Head Island, which took a more direct hit from the hurricane, to complete damage assessment of structures.
  • The customer service department is back to normal with the acceptance of all planning and building permits; however, keep in mind that emergency permits and inspections are the top priority and may affect otherwise standard review times.

Please contact staff with any questions or concerns.

Lisa Sulka is the mayor of the Town of Bluffton.