Hilton Head ferry launch wants permission to start boat tours, rentals

bheffernan@islandpacket.comJune 19, 2013 

Salty Fare Landing on Squire Pope Road near Hilton Head Plantation's Cypress Gate is photographed on Wednesday.

JAY KARR — Staff photo Buy Photo

A group of Hilton Head Island residents, a dock owner and a business owner will meet at water's edge Thursday off Squire Pope Road to determine if a fleet of Sea-Doos make too much noise.

Some residents of The Cyprus of Hilton Head are worried that personal watercraft rentals at the nearby Salty Fare dock will destroy the tranquility of their neighborhood.

Salty Fare owner S. Kittredge Collins has asked the town to allow his waterfront property to offer watercraft rentals on a permanent basis. He also wants to offer chartered boat tours and ferry transportation.

Since February, the watersports company On The Water Hilton Head, owned by Michael Moy, has been allowed to rent the Sea-Doos from Collins' dock because of an error made in the town's business license office.

On Wednesday, the Town of Hilton Head Island Planning Commission voted unanimously to postpone a decision on that request until August.

The delay allows the groups to meet Thursday morning for a demonstration Collins believes will calm residents' concerns over noise.

Depending on what the residents hear -- or don't hear -- today could determine whether On The Water will continue to rent watercraft from the dock.

If the town denies Salty Fare's request, Moy's business license could be revoked, according to town staff.

Moy said he invested about $60,000 in the watercraft after town staff incorrectly told him in February the rentals were allowed.

"This would be a huge financial loss," Moy said after the meeting. "This is my livelihood."

The town's decision could cost Collins as well.

He said his dock and the surrounding property needs the rental business to stay afloat financially.

The dock has been used for transporting ferry passengers bound for Daufuskie Island since 1988. However, ferry traffic has dropped off sharply, Collins said.

His request to allow the rentals to continue is the most recent attempt to make the property more profitable.

The 10-acre site was considered for a 140-room boutique hotel and a water park as recently as last year, but those plans were dropped in part because of resident opposition.

However, Collins said at Wednesday's meeting he was not involved in developing those plans and would not have signed off on their construction.

"I'm afraid that my neighbors have never forgiven me for (the plans), but (they aren't) something I would have approved," he said. "My goal would be for my neighbors to help me turn Salty Fare into its best use," he said.

Collins' offer to visit the dock was a good way for the parties involved to talk, said commission chair Gail Quick.

"The best solutions involve all elements of the community working issues out," she said.

That sentiment was echoed by Peter Kristian, general manager of Hilton Head Plantation which includes The Cyprus neighborhood.

"It gives the residents an opportunity to hear first-hand and see first-hand what's going on," he said. "I think it's a very good thing."

No matter how the commission votes in August, the issue will also be brought before the town's Planning and Development Standards Committee. Final approval must come from Town Council.

Follow reporter Brian Heffernan at twitter.com/IPBG_Brian

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