Coligny Beach parking lot won't be expanded this summer, Hilton Head Council says

dburley@islandpacket.comJuly 15, 2014 

More parking won't be added to the Coligny Beach area this summer, Town of Hilton Head Island officials decided Tuesday.

Town Council voted down a proposal that would have opened a dirt lot next to the Coligny Beach parking lot on Pope Avenue. The lot -- currently filled with construction equipment, debris and Dumpsters -- would have provided 30 to 40 additional spaces.

Work to ready it for parking by mid-August would have cost $47,000.

Town officials said that was too much money to spend at the season's midway point.

"I see little or nothing to be gained to do something for this season," Mayor Drew Laughlin said.

That view was shared by many of the residents and business owners who say visitors intrude on their property when the Pope Avenue lot is full.

"I don't think there's any hope for us this year," said David Martin, who owns the Piggly Wiggly in Coligny Plaza. "I'm disappointed, but hopefully we'll get something done next summer."

The town is considering two proposals to improve parking by next tourist season.

The first involves about $217,000 worth of improvements to the dirt lot. That work would create another 132 spaces, according to town urban designer Jennifer Ray.

The second would cost $75,000 and would add 25 spaces to the Pope Avenue lot. It also would add a second entrance on South Forest Beach Drive, she said.

Council members said they want more information -- including the results of an ongoing Pope Avenue parking lot-area traffic study -- before deciding on the plans. They will continue to discuss the projects this fall.

Either plan would be only a temporary fix until broader upgrades are made to the Coligny area, town manager Steve Riley said. Those upgrades -- at least two years away -- likely will include a parking garage, a public park and a children's museum, he said.

Forest Beach Property Owners Association president Jack Daly is tired of waiting.

He wants the temporary parking spaces installed by next summer and the long-term upgrades finished the following year.

He said the town has prioritized other projects over Coligny, such as the Shelter Cove Towne Centre and Chaplin Linear Park.

"We've been waiting in line since the town bought the property in 1999," he said. "This is the main tourist draw on the island, and it doesn't need to be pushed down the list."

Follow reporter Dan Burley at twitter.com/IPBG_Dan.

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