Thursday, September 29, 2016 Blog

Hilton Head, are you there?

by Andy Hollis

By Dana Beach

Over the years the Conservation League has worked with cities and counties to plan collaboratively with an eye toward environmental protection.  One of the first counties to take up the comprehensive planning mantel was Beaufort, in the mid-1990s.  But the road has not always been smooth.

A major challenge came from what we called “rogue” towns that, at the behest of developers, annexed property with the explicit goal of undermining stronger county zoning codes.  Examples include Awendaw’s annexation of land in the Francis Marion National Forest, Yemassee’s annexation of Binden plantation, using a strip 10 feet wide and two miles long, and Port Royal’s annexation of Rose Island across the Broad River.

Fortunately, things have changed for the better.  Port Royal has been particularly responsive to the broader planning needs of the region.  But just when you thought comprehensive planning was a forgone conclusion, another town has gone rogue.  Embarrassingly, this time it is Hilton Head.

Last week, with virtually no public notice, the town held first reading to annex a highly erosional barrier island, Bay Point, across the mouth of the Broad River.  The purpose was to allow Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas of Bangkok, (Thailand) to develop an eco-resort.  (The irony of an “eco-resort” on a small, fragile barrier island has not gone unnoticed.)

As Teresa Moss with the Island Packet writes, this raises general concerns about precedent and secrecy, in addition to the particular problem of this site serving as a permanent settlement of any sort.  (Look at Bay Point on Google Earth for a sense of the ephemeral nature of the island.)

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