Anyone who has driven the roads and lanes of Palmetto Bluff, the private resort community located in Bluffton SC, will be conscious of the volume of building underway. We have various projects coming out of the ground here ourselves and know this to be a predictable process. First, trees come down; the wood goes to the paper mill, infrastructure created, roads, grading, lakes (borrow pits) and utilities. Then the lots are platted and sold down. They are staked, plans are drawn up and permitted, we clear land, organic top-cover removed, padded, and construction begins. In between these two stages is another. One that is too small for the big land clearance yet much larger than preparing an individual lot. We are under contract and have preliminary design plans to recreate “Palmetto Bluff Farm” on just under 4 acres at the entrance to Palmetto Bluff. This falls into that messy middle and so our story follows.

There are two residential entrances to Palmetto Bluff. Palmetto Bluff Road and Old Palmetto Bluff Road. These lie side by side. Most visitors will take the former; residents who know will often take the latter as it’s easier to turn right on to May River Road. Once a coastal forest, this area became rich farmland, then became fallow or forest again. Our project tract at 41 Palmetto Bluff Road has seen all three stages and latterly fallen into disuse as fallow and often flooded. Our first task was to understand just what we had. We undertook a Tree and Topographical survey; we took core samples and sent up a drone for aerial shots. It was the summer of 2021, the land was a swamp, and the insects were voracious, really not the nicest of projects at that point.

Palmetto Bluff Farm Topographical Survey DURING

These are the “during” and “after” surveys for our Palmetto Bluff Farm site. “During” was when we cleared about 2/3 of the land, “after” is what we have now. The biggest change apart from removing trees is where we dropped the deep trench [noted below as “swale”] right across the land East to West from the road to the back of the lot and graded towards it. We also added a roadway for access [noted below as “earthen road”]. We also agreed with Beaufort County to change the setbacks but that may be the subject of the next blog. The grading was purposefully placed midway across the lowest contour of the “during” survey. We can’t, after all, fight gravity.

Palmetto Bluff Farm Topographical Survey AFTER

This land had been unwanted and unloved for a long time. Unwanted because it floods. However, the survey indicated a sloping site and the tell-tale signs of old field boundaries. Trees do not naturally grow in straight lines. So the next stage was to invite Cleland Site Prep to take out all the unwanted trees, preserve the grand specimens, and open the land to the sky. They did with their typical aplomb, and at the same time, heavy plant and machinery churned up the ground even more. If you recall the summer of 2021, it rained a lot; it typically does in the summers. This was not good.

You cannot even start the planning or build application process until you fully understand the land at hand. So this had to be drained, and simple evaporation was not going to win against the deluge of summer rains. The clue was in the Topographical survey, get in there, get muddy (honestly, you have no idea how muddy), and find out how it had once been farmland.

I like impressionist art. I like that it’s merely a nod to literality, its avoidance of pastiche. I like that it invites a personal interpretation rather than simply providing the answers. The journey of discovery. So we looked at the land, and we looked at the land around it. We walked the boundaries and the bulk. From the confusion of our warfare with nature, there solidified a pattern, the old field boundary went under the road, and when they built the road, they created a culvert now long since covered over. We got in the mud again and cleared the culvert, we cleared the old ditches with 18-inch pines growing down their length, and we reconstituted the wrecked drainage channel flowing across the site. Then we waited. Land wet for 50 years does not drain easily or quickly. By the end of 2021 it could take a footfall and, on occasion, a tracked vehicle without simply collapsing. We flagged utilities in the road easement, held our breath, and moved the machinery in to begin to grade.

We cleared brush, removed stumps, shifted perhaps 1000 tonnes of dirt. We rebuilt ditch banks, laid an access road, provided swales for additional drainage, we pulled out old fence wire, farm machinery, tin sheet and even an engine. And the land drained further. We Root Raked to break up the hard-pan subsoil, Hardi Raked to break up the surface clumps and graded some more. We harrowed to clean the debris we burned and burned and burned, bush and scrub, old trees and tangled vines. And the land became dry and we seeded the grass.

This story has longevity; it will go on for a while. Become one of those “In the Know” and follow the story of “Palmetto Bluff Farm” as we go through the journey of planning, permitting, and construction. Return often to this blog and follow along.

Building custom homes in Palmetto Bluff is not difficult if you understand the process. Our firm, Simplified Construction, are indeed experts at the intricacies and regulatory demands of the design-build process. We know the value of understanding the land first, and designing spaces that work in seamless harmony with what nature has first provided. If you consider building your own home, let us work with you to bring it out of the ground from day one. Follow us here, or head to our blog to follow our other development projects in Palmetto Bluff.

Simplified Construction Chris Leigh-Jones

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