Sea Pines votes down big fees for bike companies

gsmith@islandpacket.comJanuary 17, 2013 

Sea Pines leaders are putting the brakes on a plan to charge big gate fees to bicycle rental companies that enter the community to deliver bikes to visitors.

In a joint board vote Thursday, Community Services Associates, which maintains the community's bike paths, and the property owners association decided to charge the bike companies -- and all other outside vendors who drive through the gate -- $200 a year for each four-wheeled vehicle. That's up from $175 per vehicle last year.

"It's a little bit more but not much. And it's exactly the same as what they're charging" the other vendors, said Stanton Allaben, co-owner of Palmetto Bikes, who fought the increase. "It's absolutely a victory. We're very happy."

In December, CSA sent a notice to bike rental companies that the yearly gate fee would sharply increase to a flat fee of $1,500 for each bike rental company with one or two vehicles and to $2,500 for those with three or more vehicles.

Bike companies joined forces, and one even hired an attorney, to fight the hike, claiming it was unfair and unlawful to charge them more than other vendors who service Sea Pines guests, including pizza deliverers and cleaning services.

Cary Kelley, CSA executive vice president, said in a press release Thursday the decision was the result of "feedback from property owners."

"They felt they wanted to keep everyone in the same pool," he said.

But concerns still remain about bike safety, congestion and potential liability problems because of the increasing use of the community's bike paths, he said.

To address it, Sea Pines will adopt regulations for the access and use of the paths, including a requirement that bike rental companies have $1 million in general liability insurance coverage, the same amount required for other contractors working in Sea Pines. They must also give safety information to bike renters and give Sea Pines a list of the number of bike rentals within the community.

"All we're trying to do is get an idea of how many bikes are coming into the community and using the paths," Kelley said. "We have limited infrastructure, and during the summer months, it's crazy on the trails. And a lot of the visitors are from out of state and don't understand the bike rules are different, that they have to yield to cars."

The community will also start a new program to better monitor and manage bike traffic, including providing more information to bikers and assigning security officers to patrol the paths.

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