As a years-long feud regarding the use of “lock-out” condominium units on Hilton Head Island continues to burn, the town’s Planning Commission added fuel to the fire Wednesday when it decided to allow the controversial practice in timeshares.
The changes, if approved at an undetermined date by Town Council, would allow the construction or renovation of timeshares for the purpose of lock-outs in specific areas, including the Mitchelville, South Forest Beach, Coligny and Bradley Circle regions.
Currently lock-outs are allowed in multi-family buildings within those areas. Typically, condominiums with the split units have longer leases compared to the allotted use periods of timeshares.
The Town Council in July hired the Columbia law firm of Robinson, McFadden & Moore to review the issue of lock-outs, but kept the exact recommendations from the firm quiet.
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Lock-outs separate multiple-bedroom units, often by locked or caulked doors, and sometimes limit access to kitchens and power breakers. Opponents say the units are a safety hazard, health risk and support criminal activities.
Jack Daly, Forest Beach Owners Association president, said safety concerns in two multi-family condominium buildings, Oceanwalk Villas and Xanadu Villas, are already a growing concern.
“We had one lady who would have an extension cord on one side, and every time she plugged it in, it would throw a break on the other side (of the lock-out unit),” he said.
Allowing timeshares to be built as lock-out units opens the door for them later being used as long-term rentals, Daly said.
“People build these with the intention of one day having a front desk with a guy who has keys, but that never happens,” Daly said. “They (Oceanwalk and Xanadu) never had the 24/7 management they were built for.”
Nearly a dozen individuals expressed similar concerns to the commission Wednesday, along with the issue of traffic congestion on the island’s south side.
“Anything that increases the density of cars on the road is something we are greatly against,” said Mark Griffith, board chairman of the Sea Pines Community Services Associates.
Sea Pines residents previously opposed the approval of a University of South Carolina Beaufort campus in the area, citing increased traffic as a main concern. The town set up a committee to address traffic in the region following the complaints.
Jim Gant, chairman of that committee and also a member of the Planning Commission, said Wednesday he didn’t think adding lock-out units to timeshares would increase traffic.
“My thought is the traffic is driven more by the number of bedrooms than the number of locks on doors,” Gant said.
Residents at Wednesday’s meeting also voiced concerns about the Planning Commission’s approval to set the maximum residential density for the Coligny and South Forest Beach areas at 16 units per acre. Town staff said the approval only clarified town code wording to meet practices already in place. The Planning Commission’s action will be considered by the Town Council at a later date.