Sea Pines gate fee to increase; CSA executive leaving

tbarton@islandpacket.comDecember 14, 2013 

The new year will bring changes for Sea Pines on Hilton Head Island -- including a new executive vice president and a higher gate fee for daily visitors.

Beginning April 1, the cost for visitors to enter the gated community will increase from $5 per car to $6, said Cary Kelley, executive vice president of Community Services Associates Inc.

Also, Kelley said that at the end of the month, he will leave CSA, which maintains the common property and roads within the community. He will become executive director of the First Colony Community Association, which is in Sugar Land, Texas, near Houston.

HIGHER GATE FEE

The $1 increase on the gate entrance fee is expected to generate an additional $350,000 a year, according to Kelley. About 60 percent of that will be deposited into CSA's operating budget and a reserve fund to pay for trolley service, beautification, and road, path and general-maintenance projects, community officials said.

The remaining 40 percent will be split between marketing Sea Pines businesses and ongoing permitting, inspection and monitoring costs to dredge Harbour Town and other Sea Pines waterways.

"The gate fee has not been raised since 1998, while our operating and maintenance costs have gone up significantly, into the six figures," CSA board president Bob Mang said Friday.

Mang declined to be more specific about Sea Pines' increased costs.

"We have limited places to go for revenue increases," with the gate fee being the easiest and most logical, he said. CSA is prohibited by covenants from increasing property assessments beyond inflation adjustments, he said.

"It's a very nominal fee to enjoy all Sea Pines has to offer."

Beverly Martin, owner of Le Spa in the Shops at Sea Pines Center, does not foresee a drop in tourism business because of the increase, but worries the fee will continue to deter island residents who do not live in Sea Pines from shopping inside the community.

"The gate holds back a lot of business," Martin said. "But we do understand it takes money to keep the roads properly done, provide security and maintain the beautiful setting inside Sea Pines."

Martin suggests CSA offer discounts or cheaper shopping passes to residents -- like it did until a few years ago -- to help Sea Pines store owners.

"(The gate fee) is a thorn in the side of so many people who live outside the gates and choose to shop elsewhere to avoid paying the fee," Martin said.

KELLEY SAYS FAREWELL

Kelley was hired by CSA in June 2005 to replace former CSA chief operating officer Ward Kirby, who retired that year. Kelley, a 22-year Marine Corps veteran, was previously general manager of the Callawassie Island Property Owners Association.

"CSA has been great," Kelley said Friday. "They have a wonderful staff and it's a great community, and I wish Sea Pines, the island and everybody well. But I'm looking forward to a new challenge in a different area of the U.S. I haven't lived in. It's been extremely enjoyable working at CSA."

CSA's board of directors has convened a six-member committee to search for Kelley's replacement. In the meantime, a small group of board members will oversee and manage CSA operations until a replacement comes aboard, Mang said.

"Cary had done his thing here and was anxious to move on to something else," Mang said. "It was something he was planning for a while. I think he's done a very solid job and helped improve CSA's finances and delivered a lot of CSA's objectives."

Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom.

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