Planning commission shoots down Hilton Head National Golf Club rezoning

zmurdock@beaufortgazette.comSeptember 5, 2013 

A county planning panel denied a request Thursday night to rezone the Hilton Head National Golf Club so that residential and commerical property could be built there.

In denying the request by course owners Scratch Golf LLC, the Beaufort County Planning Commission said it needed more specifics about traffic and the types of residential and commercial property that would be built on the 310-acre site on Malphrus Road and Bluffton Parkway.

"I see this as an applicant asking for a blank check," said planning commission member Diane Chmelik . "I don't have enough information, and there's no way I could vote for something that has 40 possible uses."

Among those uses could be housing, retail, hotels, office buildings, conference centers and water parks, according to a county staff report.

The site, which has frontage along U.S. 278, is now zoned rural. Scratch Golf wants that zoning changed to regional commercial.

Commission chairman Robert Semmler worried that the request is too broad.

The 15 or so residents from neighborhoods along Malphrus Road agreed, standing together at one point to show their opposition. The four who spoke at the meeting, condemned the project.

"There should be more information to evaluate potential impacts on traffic, water quality, and the neighboring communities," said resident Reed Armstrong, who is also project manager at the Coastal Conservation League.

County Council member and Bluffton resident Tabor Vaux also spoke against the plan, citing concerns over increased traffic.

"Allowing a development like this would defeat the purpose of the Bluffton Parkway, which is supposed to be a bypass to 278, not a duplicate," he said.

Vaux also said the meeting, which was held in at the county administration building in Beaufort, should have been held in Bluffton since it concerned a Bluffton project and affected Bluffton residents. He proposed holding another hearing in Bluffton.

Semmler suggested adopting a schedule in which the commission alternates meeting locations . That would give residents in the southern part of the county a better opportunity to address the board, and would mirror an approach already taken by County Council, he said.

"If the County Council thinks it's important enough to do, then absolutely, we should, too," he said.

The commission's recommendation on the golf course rezoning next moves to the county's Natural Resources Committee, which will take it up at its Oct. 7 meeting.

That panel will then make a recommendation to County Council.

Follow reporter Zach Murdock at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach.

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