Hilton Head committee backs lease agreement for youth golf program

tbarton@islandpacket.comOctober 1, 2013 

BGLOWCOUNTRY.ORG

A Hilton Head Island committee agreed Tuesday to lease 15 acres of town-owned land on Gumtree Road to the Boys & Girls Club of the Lowcountry to open a local chapter of The First Tee program.

The town's Public Facilities Committee voted 2-0 to recommend Town Council lease the property, with Councilwoman Kim Likins, the club's executive director, recusing herself. Town Council has the final say on the lease.

The Hilton Head Island Boys & Girls Club reached a formal agreement this summer with The First Tee to open a local chapter.

The national youth program introduces those ages 5 to 18 to the game and its values in the hopes of building character education and life skills by teaching golf's lessons, according to its website.

Chapter activities would be centered around a proposed practice facility, estimated to cost $793,000, that would be built on town land next to the club, according to club officials.

The town purchased 10 of the acres for $250,000 on March 5 in anticipation of the project, according to town manager Steve Riley.

The practice facility would include a driving range, chipping area, practice green, fairway and pro shop, according to drawings submitted to the town. The public could use it when not occupied by the club's programs.

The town would lease the parcel to the chapter for $1 a year for an initial term of 40 to 50 years and would be renewable, similar to leases the town has with the Coastal Discovery Museum and the Mitchelville Preservation Project, according to Riley. The lease would be contingent on Town Council approval of a business plan, he wrote in a memo to the committee.

Club officials say they have been crafting a business plan to make lessons affordable and raise money for a practice facility, which would be built within the next 12 to 18 months.

The Hilton Head program would be First Tee's only chapter in Beaufort County and its seventh in South Carolina. It has about 200 chapters throughout the U.S., as well as six in foreign countries, according to its website.

SELLING WELCOME CENTER LAND

The committee also recommended that Town Council sell 1.8 acres off where the island's Welcome Center once stood to neighboring Crazy Crab restaurant to increase parking. The town demolished the Welcome Center at 100 William Hilton Parkway and has no plans to develop the land.

The Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce closed the center in October after a survey found that more travelers are looking online for vacation information.

Town staff had said the building, constructed in the 1970s, was not worth repairing.

Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom.

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