Sea Pines residents appeal proposed beach club plan

The Island PacketJune 29, 2013 

— A group of Sea Pines residents is challenging plans for a new $10-million beach club approved by the Town of Hilton Head Island two weeks ago.

An appeal filed by the 27-member group said town staff used the wrong municipal parking rules in approving the plan, leaving the two-story club with too few spaces to accommodate beach crowds.

Staff members classified the club as an “active park,” which allowed Sea Pines Resort to submit a plan with 158 spaces. The appeal calls on Sea Pines Resort to provide at least 200 spaces.

Town staff was unable to find industry standards for beach-club parking requirements, according to a June 14 town letter approving plan.

The existing club off North Sea Pines Drive, which will be replaced by the new one, has 178 spaces.

The group's appeal will be considered by the town's Board of Zoning Appeals on Aug. 26.

At issue is what the club will be.

The Sea Pines residents group says the club is a “commercial” space. Town staff disagrees and says the club is an “active park,” a designation one town official said most closely fits its use.

The new club features about 27,500 square feet of indoor and outdoor space. Besides showers, bathrooms and changing rooms, the club also includes two dining areas and bars, a private event space, retail and office space.

The residents group believes those uses don't mesh with the “active park” classification.

“We believe it should be a commercial classification,” said resident Sue Ehmke, who wrote and submitted the appeal on behalf of the residents. “… The major portion of it should be classified as an eating establishment.”

Commercial uses would require more parking spaces at the new club — but exactly how many more depends on which portions are used for dining, retail or office space.

That designation, however, wouldn't represent the scope of the club, according to Teri Lewis, the town's Land Management Ordinance official.

“I'm not going to call it a restaurant like the residents want me to because it's not simply a restaurant facility,” she said.

Town code isn't clear about how a beach club should be classified, so determining the number of parking spaces requires some interpretation, Lewis said.

“I felt that ‘active park' was most reflective of (the proposed club), realizing that it wasn't the most perfect (match), but it is the best out of what I have to pick from,” she said.

Resort officials have said guests using the event space would park off-site and be shuttled to the club.

They also have proposed tripling the number of bicycle parking spots at the club, offering rides from The Inn at Harbour Town, requiring employees to park off-site and allowing overflow parking at the nearby Plantation Golf Club.

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