Hilton Head should scale back projects

info@islandpacket.comJune 3, 2013 

Hilton Head Island's Town Council has asked staff to scale back plans for a linear park, which included this observation tree house, as well as gardens, a traffic roundabout, a farmers market and pavilions.

SUBMITTED — Submitted rendering

A move to scale back two Hilton Head Island recreational projects recognizes the town's financial reality -- less money coming in as a result of Beaufort County's property reassessment.

It's a responsible approach that doesn't dump the projects altogether, but does acknowledge the town must stick to its budget and be careful in how it spends its money.

While expressing support for a sailing and rowing center off Squire Pope Road and a 1.5 mile linear park to connect the Shelter Cove area to the beach, Town Council members balked at their escalating price tags.

The council had agreed last year to spend $700,000 on the sailing and rowing center, but learned the cost estimate had jumped to $950,000. Town staff apparently had underestimated the cost to build a floating dock to be used for fishing, crabbing and launching boats.

The town already has spent $102,000 to design the sailing center and study its environmental impact.

Council members asked staff to determine what could be cut to reduce costs. The center would be built on 7.75 acres of town-owned property and have a 1,400-square-foot picnic pavilion, fenced boat storage and restrooms, according to plans approved by the town's design board.

They also held out the possibility of going for the higher-priced version if private money could fill in the gap, but that might prove difficult. The amount the center's supporters have said they could raise has dropped from $1 million to $356,000 over the years.

Still, if private funding can come through, the town should go forward with the approved plan. The center would provide valuable public access to the water and increase the value of the town's owning the property.

As for the linear park, clearly it's time to ratchet back the project. The cost estimate has doubled to $6 million since the town first approved conceptual plans last August.

The $6 million version features a lot of neat ideas, including a split-level treehouse observation tower, an elaborate, curving bridge across a Broad Creek inlet; and a boardwalk to connect Chaplin Community Park with Collier Beach Park. All three have been deemed too expensive. Town manager Steve Riley said revisions would trim the cost to about $2.5 million.

As Riley noted, town planners and local architects "came up some things that are really cool, but 'really cool' ... costs a lot of money."

It's the second time plans for the linear park have been cut back, but that's all right. Projects must reflect what the town can afford.

Mayor Drew Laughlin is right that the town should not let these projects grow to be so expensive that they don't get done at all.

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