Developer slides out of idea for Hilton Head water park

tbarton@islandpacket.comSeptember 5, 2012 

A plan to put a water park on Hilton Head Island has slipped away, and a developer who had hoped to build a boutique hotel on the same site has lost interest in that project, according to the owner of a 10-acre plot known as Salty Fare.

Michael Kronimus, executive principal with Bluffton architectural firm KRA Inc., proposed a water park in July after plans for a 140-room boutique hotel drew opposition from residents of The Cypress of Hilton Head, a retirement community in Hilton Head Plantation next to the property.

Salty Fare owner Kittredge Collins of San Francisco said Wednesday that a developer who once showed interest backed out of plans to buy the property and build a 140-room hotel. Collins added there are no plans for a water park, contrary to statements two months ago by Kronimus, who had been hired by the anonymous developer.

"A water park can go in there, if someone wanted to build one," Collins said. "But at this point, there's no one interested in doing that."

Collins says it is unclear why the developer backed out: They might have lost their appetite for the project, been unwilling to squabble with residents opposed to the hotel or simply lacked the money to proceed.

"It could have been some or all of those things," Collins said.

Kronimus, indicating no desire for a protracted battle with residents over hotel plans, floated the idea to build two restaurants and the water park on the land off Squire Pope Road.

Zoning rules allow for a water park and would not require Town Council approval. Collins, though, doesn't think such a park would be the "highest and best use" of the site.

"I wouldn't put a water park in there," he said. "I see this property as being ripe for a small hotel and a restaurant that might include some water feature" or dock.

Kronimus declined to comment Tuesday, referring questions to Collins, who said he plans to work closely with Hilton Head Plantation and The Cypress to find a new developer.

"The site will be developed in some fashion, and it's my hope that will be something mutually beneficial to all concerned," Collins said. "Sound development works when there's a partnership with the community to get it done."

Hilton Head Plantation resident and town Councilman Bill Harkins said neighboring homeowners oppose a water park.

Residents might accept a small inn, similar to the nearby Main Street Inn, if it "does not have an unreasonable impact on traffic, noise and aesthetics," Harkins said. "One hundred forty rooms far exceeds the common understanding of 'boutique.'"

Hilton Head hasn't had a water park since Waterfun Park closed its slides in 2007 after 27 years.

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