Salty Fare owner to sell land for retirement community on Hilton Head

tbarton@islandpacket.comJanuary 10, 2014 

Tired of battling nearby residents over his commercial development plans, the owner of a Hilton Head Island waterfront property says he will sell the land to a company to build a retirement community.

Salty Fare Landing owner S. Kittredge Collins of San Francisco said Thursday he intends to sell the land off Squire Pope Road to Bayshore Retirement Living of Tampa, Fla.

For the past two years, several development ideas have been proposed for the 10-acre property.

But in September, Collins withdrew a request to the Town of Hilton Head Island to allow a dock along Skull Creek to offer watercraft tours and similar activities. The proposal met staunch opposition from residents of nearby Hilton Head Plantation and The Cypress of Hilton Head. Similar resistance also killed a proposal in 2012 for a water park, 140-room hotel and restaurants.

Frustrated by the opposition and the difficulty of managing the property from afar, Collins said the sale should appease nearby residents while providing a good use for the land.

But he had strong words for Town Council.

"I have not been treated fairly, and council has ignored the wisdom from their own town staff and Planning Commission," Collins said.

Council's Planning & Development Standards Committee voted Aug. 28 to recommend Collins' request be denied, despite an Aug. 7 vote in its favor by the town's Planning Commission and an endorsement by town staff.

The committee said the rezoning came with no stipulations on the number or types of commercial watercraft that could use the dock.

Collins said the committee overrode town policy in favor of a vocal minority of residents.

"The real issue is how the politics have overridden what the public policy is on Hilton Head," he said. "I'm taking a loss on the property because members of a town subcommittee have allowed the actions of my neighbors to diminish the value of the property."

Residents of The Cypress, a retirement community in Hilton Head Plantation near the landing, lobbied for months to shut down a watersports company operating there after the town mistakenly issued it a business license.

The residents worried noise from personal watercraft rentals would disturb the tranquility of their neighborhood. However, no noise complaints were made to the town while the company operated from the dock, according to staff attorney Brian Hulbert.

The company, called On the Water Hilton Head, also held a Wave Runner demonstration in June for town officials and residents, in which "we didn't even hear or know they were being operated," Hulbert said.

The town mistakenly issued On the Water Hilton Head a business license in early 2013. It chose not to renew the license, which expired Dec. 31, after staff discovered the mistake.

Councilman Bill Harkins, who represents Hilton Head Plantation and The Cypress, contends he and other council members "conducted ourselves in a fair, open manner."

"The process was very objective," he said. "We're looking at what's best for the majority of people. This (sale to Bayshore Retirement) represents the most favorable development potential that to date we've seen that's compatible with Hilton Head Plantation and The Cypress."

Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom.

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