Southern Lowcountry Stormwater Ordinance & Design Manual


The Town of Bluffton's Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) combines the Zoning Ordinance, Subdivision Regulations, and other ordinances related to land use development into one set of regulations. These regulations cover aspects of the built environment, including:

  • what different types of land uses can be constructed (single family, stores, offices etc.),
  • size, height and placement of buildings,
  • how much parking is needed and standards for its design,
  • design standards for landscape, lighting and signs, and
  • the design of stormwater management and utilities. 

Southern Lowcountry Regional Board 

Elected officials from City of Hardeeville, Towns of Bluffton, Ridgeland, and Hilton Head Island, Beaufort County, and Jasper County re-established the Southern Lowcountry Regional Board (SoLoCo) on August 29, 2017. The Mission of SoLoCo is “to create a regional think tank that will identify the problems and opportunities that face the entire southern Lowcountry, as defined by the members and regardless of municipal or county boundaries; to discuss the zoning, housing, employment, quality of life and social issues; and to propose action plans to the appropriate legislative bodies.”

SoLoCo prioritized the need for a uniform set of stormwater standards and design guidelines to meet the goal of protecting the region’s sensitive environment, residents’ quality of life, and future economic development opportunities. A SoLoCo subcommittee, made up of staff representatives from each jurisdiction, compared the eight (8) different stormwater ordinance standards currently in use. Recognizing that existing standards may not be current with State of the Knowledge for stormwater management, the subcommittee recommended procuring a consultant team to more efficiently and expeditiously write a regional, unified stormwater ordinance and manual to meet SoLoCo’s goal.

A consultant team and the seven (7) project partners (City of Hardeeville, Town of Bluffton, Town of Port Royal, City of Beaufort, Town of Yemassee, Beaufort County, and Jasper County) received local stakeholder input from the project’s outset and garnered feedback from the professional design community during statewide, regional, and national presentations. 

The Town of Bluffton’s consolidated FY19 budget included this project and prioritized it in the Strategic Plan Fiscal Years (FY) 2019 – 2020 under Focus Area “May River & Surrounding Rivers and Watersheds” with the May River Watershed Action Plan (Action Plan Update). A component of the Action Plan Update consists of updating “Article 5.10 Stormwater” of the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO), last amended in 2011, to align stormwater design requirements with current State of the Knowledge practices.

The consultant team and the six (6) project partners received local stakeholder input from the project’s outset and garnered feedback from the professional design community during statewide, regional, and national presentations. The resulting Southern Lowcountry Post Construction Stormwater Ordinance (Stormwater Ordinance) and Southern Lowcountry Stormwater Design Manual (Design Manual) are unique in that they accomplish the following: 

  • Regional collaboration for consistent, effective management of stormwater at the watershed scale.
  • The Stormwater Ordinance and Design Manual unify current diversity of municipality requirements due to MS4 permits, need, and community dynamics:
    • Allows for “Special Watershed Protection Area” designations and requirements
    • Establishes post-construction criteria for volume control (quantity and quality) and design standards
    • Provides enforcement for current design through life of the development
  • Stormwater Design Manual is watershed-based approach, not by jurisdiction
    • Incorporates green infrastructure/low impact development
    • Protects existing natural areas & incorporates open space in new development
    • Provides water quality and quantity credit for thirteen (13) Best Management Practices (BMPs)

UDO Sections Affected

Staff anticipates the following sections of the UDO may be edited as part of the Southern Lowcountry Post Construction Stormwater Ordinance and Design Manual adoption process and will be discussed in detail during the 9/23/20 Planning Commission meeting: 

  • UDO Article 3 – Application Process

Changes may be required related to the stormwater permit and process, 

  • Section 3.10 – Development Plan and
  • Section 3.13 – Development Surety
  • UDO Article 5 – Design Standards
    • Section 5.10 – Stormwater
      For and consistency with partner jurisdictions, the majority of Article 5.10 Stormwater will be struck through, except for Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination, and reference the regional Stormwater Ordinance as Appendix “X.” The Stormwater Ordinance will reference the Design Manual as Exhibit 
  • UDO Article 9 – Definitions and Interpretation

Stormwater Design Manual

The Town of Bluffton's Stormwater Design Manual (SWDM) standardizes how stormwater elements of projects are designed, submitted, reviewed, approved, and inspected. 

The Town of Bluffton Council adopted a new SWDM on September 14, 2021. Chapters and Appendices of the SoLoCo SWDM are provided below.