Readers continue to call and email The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette to inquire about the status of the unfinished Sea Turtle Marketplace shopping center on Hilton Head Island, which some consider an eyesore, and to ask what the Town of Hilton Head Island will do, if anything, to rectify the situation.
No changes appear to have been made in the four months since construction at the old Pineland Station site was halted by the shopping center’s developer. In the meantime, two dates for resuming work on the project have come and gone.
Now there’s a third date.
At a Town Council meeting Tuesday night, Charles Cousins, the town’s director of community development, said he has been in contact with representatives of Wheeler Real Estate Co., the developer company, and that the developer, Jon Wheeler, was working on restructuring his financing and anticipates beginning construction again in early October.
Kevin Kiernan of Sandcastle Constructors, the contractor on the project that filed a $890,801 mechanics lien against former and current property owners in May, said he thought the situation with Wheeler’s financial restructuring was very problematic and that he could not confirm an October restart date.
“We are hoping for that,” he said. “Again, we’ve heard dates before. They haven’t been real.”
A call to Jon Wheeler on Wednesday was not returned.
Town Council member John McCann asked Mayor David Bennett on Tuesday to assign the finance administration committee to look into requiring performance bonds for major developments in the future, Cousins said.
From his understanding, Cousins said, with performance bonds, if a project should lapse for some period of time, then a bonding agency would step in and complete that project.
He didn’t know what would be considered a major development or for how long a project would be allowed to lapse before action would be taken, but said that this practice would be for developments in the future, not ones already permitted like Sea Turtle Marketplace.
“We have to understand, there’s a lot of information (the committee has) to gather before we could even consider doing that,” he said.
Kiernan said he respected the town’s response out of concern that this might happen again, though he said he personally didn’t think performance bonds would be effective.
Tommy Smith, president of Sandcastle Constructors, originally said he hoped to resume the project mid-July. Once that date had passed, he said in August that he and his team planned to move forward with the development Sept. 6 and that he was “as confident as (he) can be without being in control.”
Kiernan said Sandcastle Constructors has been about as patient as any company can be and that they’ve diligently been trying to maintain the site and any kind of momentum.
“It’s difficult (to keep momentum) when a project has this happen to it,” he said.
Smith filed the $890,801 mechanics lien against former and current property owners of the old Pineland Station with the Beaufort County Register of Deeds for work performed and materials supplied shortly after the construction holdup in May.
He would not comment on the lien when it was initially reported, and a spokesman of Wheeler Real Estate Co. said the organization was aware of the lien and that it would be taken care of in a timely manner.
Kiernan said Wednesday afternoon that the lien was still outstanding.
“We’ve been trying to resolve that with Wheeler,” he said.
Sandcastle Constructors has a personal stake in the island, he said, and the company wants to see the old Pineland Station rebuilt.
“We are trying to keep everyone happy,” Kiernan said. “With the passage of time, it continues to get more difficult.”