Hilton Head to reconsider car dealership restrictions

bheffernan@islandpacket.comJune 26, 2013 

A Hilton Head Island committee said Wednesday the town is ready for car talk -- specifically, a discussion of a rule that prevents car dealerships from operating near homes.

The issue, which last arose in 2010, is resurfacing because an auto repair shop owner appeared before the town's Planning and Development Standards Committee protesting a rule that prohibits dealerships from operating within 1,500 feet of a residential property. The rule keeps Autopro Hilton Head Island from selling cars, said Joseph Tobin, who owns the property off William Hilton Parkway near Museum Street where the auto repair shop operates.

"I believe that auto sales would not create any more traffic or greater noise or odor or emissions," Tobin said.

Furthermore, he said, "it's in the (town's) best interest to develop business and have successful businesses on the island. It increases our tax base."

Tobin told the committee the existing rule prevents dealerships from operating nearly anywhere on the island.

The committee voted unanimously to bring up the topic with Town Council -- again.

In 2010, the council rejected a proposal to reduce the space required between auto sales and homes from 1,500 feet to 500 feet.

Since then, however, the town has begun rewriting its rules to be more business friendly.

Tobin told the planning committee he'd like the rule changed quickly, but the committee members and staff told him that was unlikely. Even if there is support for changing the rule, the process could take six months, community development director Charles Cousins said.

Now that the committee has voted on the issue, the next action isn't likely until Town Council's meeting on Aug. 6, when the council could direct staff to draft a proposed rule change.

That amendment would then need votes from the Planning Commission, the Planning and Development Standards Committee and finally, Town Council, where it would get two readings.

Related content:

Hilton Head works to make island more welcoming to car dealerships, but dealer says it might be too late, Sept. 2, 2010

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