Hilton Head Island Town Council unanimously approved starting the annexation of a 347-acre island Tuesday, despite accusations that doing so would lack transparency.
A petition from Bay Point LLC for the annexation of Bay Point Island, where a five-star resort is planned, was approved by council members during their regular meeting.
Multiple public meetings on zoning and a development agreement will need to take place before the property can be officially annexed.
Council members heard from representatives of Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas out of Bangkok, Thailand, about how it leads the industry in sustainability practices, such as treating and bottling its own water.
It later heard from conservationists, who argued that any development on the small barrier island would be damaging to the environment used by declining shorebird populations.
After hearing both sides of the argument, about half a dozen residents asked the council to table approval of the petition to give taxpayers more time to understand the proposal first announced Monday.
Mayor David Bennett has said annexation of the property could net up to $1.5 million annually if a Six Senses resort is developed, while the town would have to provide little to no resources.
Amber Beard, Six Senses vice president of sustainability, told the council that the resort has been operating out of remote locations since it was established in 1995. It currently operates resorts in China, Maldives, Oman, Portugal, Seychelles, Thailand and Vietnam.
“Because of where we grew up fand cut our teeth, so to say, we are very self-sustainable,” Beard said.
The resort will provide its own sewer and water, Beard said. She also said it will do extensive studies on the environmental impact to make sure that building practices are less intrusive.
Rikki Parker, a project manager with the Coastal Conservation League, said any development of the island would be destructive.
“There are 5,000 shorebirds on that island, and that number can sometimes reach up to 8,000,” Parker said. “That is only possible because there is a minimal human disturbance on the island.”
Scottie Davis, a Hilton Head resident, asked the council to table the decision prior to the vote, stating that the public needed more time to understand the proposal before the town started the annexation process.
“To accept an annexation proposal, without many many hearings to tell us why, is irresponsible,” Davis said. “As a resident, I can see no reason whatsoever for us to do that.”
Council member David Ames said the annexation and resort could be important for the town. He said the resort exceeds environmental efforts that have been made by the town for years.
“It could be an example of where we, as a community, might strive to be as well,” Ames said.