Intense rains in Beaufort County in June brought relief to a drought that had gripped the Lowcountry for weeks — but the storms did leave behind some chaos. Residents in Bluffton’s Belfair gated community dealt with a sinkhole the size of a school bus on Belfair Oaks Boulevard, and Hilton Head Plantation had to close its Cypress Gate entrance to take down two large oak trees uprooted by the rain and dangling precariously over Seabrook Drive. Bluffton’s 8.64 inches of rain in the 24-hour period from June 11-12 was the highest in the country.

Fueled by an increase in new residential construction, Hardeeville continues to be the Lowcountry’s fastest-growing city, according to recently released U.S. Census figures. According to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau, Hardeeville’s newest population estimate for 2018 has grown 120 percent since the 2010 Census, with an average annual percent population increase of 15.09 percent. City officials anticipate continued strong growth as the number of construction permits continue to rise.

To help combat the workforce housing shortage on Hilton Head Island, the Richardson Group converted a former commercial building at One Park Lane into single- and double-occupancy residential units. Previously home to Carswell Insurance, the 8,800-square-foot building has been vacant for more than five years while surrounding businesses struggled to find homes for their workers. In total, the building can house 38 people in apartments that offer Wi-Fi, 55-inch TVs, and computer workspaces. The units are fully rented. 

HILTON HEAD CEMETERY JOINS NATIONAL REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES

In May, representatives from the Heritage Library Foundation joined community members and volunteers in accepting a plaque recognizing the St. Luke’s Parish Zion Chapel of Ease Cemetery’s designation on the National Register of Historic Places. 

This recognition comes after years of research by Heritage Library volunteers, who combed through records, oversaw restoration and research at the site and served as stewards of one of the island’s most fascinating historical spots. Fundraising efforts to create a history park on the site are ongoing via cf-lowcountry.org (choose Heritage Library-Zion Historic Site Preservation Fund). For information about tours conducted at the cemetery, go to www.heritagelib.org/tours.

The Kroger at Bluffton’s Buckwalter Place opened May 15. Inside the 113,000-square-foot grocery store is a beer and wine bar along with a sushi bar, hot deli, a salad bar, and a Starbucks. Online ordering and delivery options also are available.

Development around Buckwalter Place will continue with the construction of Washington Square, a large residential, office and retail community by Speyside Partners LLC. David Johnson, the property owner and developer, has said Washington Square will include “three-quarters of an acre in the middle of it for a lawn like you see in Savannah.”

Beaufort Memorial broke ground this week on a 70,000-square foot medical office building at Okatie Crossing, 122 Okatie Center Boulevard North. The three-story medical building on 19 acres will house

Amanda ONanAfter four months of being on paid administrative leave, longtime Hilton Head Island principal Amanda O’Nan announced her resignation last month in a Facebook post that included an apology to her followers for “any hurt or disappointment” she had caused them, as well as a prayer that Beaufort County School District’s interim superintendent, human resources director and an unnamed school board member “continue to enjoy living in their glass house as they cast stones.” District spokesperson Jim Foster confirmed O’Nan’s resignation.

jacobsaMEET NEW COUNTY ADMINISTRATOR ASHLEY JACOBS

Growing up in the 1980s in Aiken — which was selected by Southern Living magazine last year as “The South’s No. 1 Small Town” — Ashley Jacobs probably didn’t realize how her surroundings were shaping her future.

Today, Jacobs is Beaufort County’s new administrator, and she’s expected to play a major role in propelling the county forward.

BLUFFTON TO HOST AREA’S FIRST PRIDE FESTIVAL

Ashley Mendez was 12 when she came out as gay to her closest friends and 16 when she broke the news to her family.

She figured being open about who she was would mean leaving her hometown of Bluffton as soon as possible, shoving off from conservative South Carolina in search of a more accepting community.

Paul MurdaughPaul Murdaugh, the 20-year-old Hampton man facing three felony counts of boating under the influence in the February crash near Parris Island that killed 19-year-old Mallory Beach and injured others on board, pleaded not guilty in May to all charges at a hearing at the Beaufort County Courthouse. Judge Steven John of the 15th Judicial Circuit granted Murdaugh’s attorneys’ request that Murdaugh be released on his own recognizance, a decision one of the attorneys called standard. But critics are complaining that Murduagh is being given special treatment due to his connections with one of Hampton’s most prominent families. Murdaugh surrendered his passport and cannot leave the 14th Judicial Circuit, which includes Beaufort, Hampton, Allendale, Colleton and Jasper counties, without permission of the court. Murdaugh’s trial date had not been set by press time.

Campbell chapel2

BLUFFTON’S CAMPBELL CHAPEL AME CHURCH EARNS SPOT ON NATIONAL REGISTER

Historic preservationist Carolyn Coppola had to search high and low to find one of the most significant physical clues to support the oral history of the old Campbell Chapel AME Church building in downtown Bluffton.

“I had an intern go up into the old belfry,” said Coppola, who led the effort to document the historic church’s past in a successful push for placement on the National Register of Historic Places. “He took pictures in the attic on his phone — on a hot summer day. We were all looking for clues. We found the yoke inscription and traced it to a company using that name for a short period of time.”

The Boys &l Girls Club of Bluffton opened its new Literacy Center of Excellence, a 2,700-square-foot expansion made possible with a $75,000 grant from Community Foundation of the Lowcountry. Including this grant and other donations, the club raised more than $650,000 in less than a year. The expansion will double the number of children served in the reading intervention program. The club will also renovate its parking lot, expand its STEM program and add about100 additional members to the club to serve Bluffton’s growing population

The Beaufort County Design Review Board has approved plans to move forward with a 92-acre “luxury RV park.” The RV park is planned for the northwest corner of Hilton Head National golf course off of Bluffton Parkway. The project includes 300 high-end RV stalls, three amenity buildings, a greeting outpost building, a pocket park, a swimming pool, pickleball courts, a playground, kayaking and dock facilities, a dog park and walking paths.

May River High School in Bluffton might be a new school, but the Sharks proved their mettle in the Class 3A boys’ soccer playoffs and state track meet.

May River won 6-2 against Indian Land on May 11 at Itmo’s W.C. Hawkins Stadium. The school’s boys track and field team was victorious on the same day at Spring Valley High School. These are the first state titles in the short three-year history of the school.

Hilton Head Christian Academy held a groundbreaking ceremony for its new campus in Bluffton in May. The site is located near the corner of Bluffton Parkway and Masters Way. The 27.78-acre campus will cost more than $20 million. Hilton Head Christian currently has nearly 400 students, with nearly 70 percent currently commuting to the school’s Hilton Head campus from Bluffton and beyond.

The Town of Hilton Head has purchased a 4.57-acre tract on the north end of the island that will be used initially to create additional green space along William Hilton Parkway. The former site of Modern Classic Motors may eventually be resold for development, but the $3.65 million acquisition gives the town “the opportunity to guide the future use of this important parcel for the benefit of the community and our local economy,” Mayor John McCann said in a release.