Sea Pines Resort wants to add 90 rooms to The Inn & Club at Harbour Town — which would more than double its current size — but needs residents’ approval to do so.
The resort must have approval of 75 percent of about 6,000 property owners in the gated community to proceed with the expansion of the 60-room inn, officials said Friday. In exchange, the resort would give at least $1 million, land and other benefits to the association overseeing residential sections.
The offer stems from two years of discussions between the resort and Association of Sea Pines Plantation Property Owners (ASPPPO), officials said.
The resort’s bargaining chips include:
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▪ At least $1 million to be given to ASPPPO for improvements within Sea Pines.
▪ Reimbursement of $150,000 in expenses incurred by ASPPPO from several legal issues involving the resort.
▪ An increase in the resort’s yearly assessment paid to ASPPPO from .5 percent of the resort’s total annual revenue to .75 percent.
▪ The donation of about 300 acres of wildlife habitat to the Sea Pines Forest Preserve Foundation.
▪ A room charge to benefit the Sea Pines Forest Preserve.
▪ A 10-year lease extension for Heritage Farm.
“I think what the resort is planning is a huge benefit to Sea Pines in general,” said Charles Miner, ASPPPO board president and Community Services Associates member. “The expansion will provide a significant property value increase. It will attract high-end buyers into our community.”
The resort’s increased revenue from the inn expansion also will mean more money from their assessments, Miner said.
But not everyone is thrilled with the resort’s proposed deal.
Dana Advocaat, a Sea Pines resident and co-administrator of the website Voices of Sea Pines, said the resort pays $207,000 annually to maintain the community, while residents cover about $6 million in yearly costs.
“Expanding the inn will allow them to become a five-star resort,” Advocaat said, noting the project will bring in a large increased revenue source for the resort.
That’s why residents should ask for more from the deal, Advocaat said.
“It is not a great deal for the residents,” she said. “They are not giving us much. With this referendum, we want to get more control of our governance, and we want them to provide more funding for the upkeep of the community.”
Residents have few options for raising revenue because the resort is able to veto any referendum initiated and passed by residents, Advocaat said.
Miner said residents will have a chance to respond to the resort’s proposal during two public meetings on May 30 at the Sea Pines Community Center, 71 Lighthouse Road. The meetings will be held at 9:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.
“This will be our first real opportunity to field questions from the community and discuss the details,” he said.
Miner said ASPPPO will take into account the feedback and continue negotiations with the resort before drafting a referendum, which it hopes to bring to residents this summer.
Steve Birdwell, Sea Pines Resort president, declined when contacted Friday to give details on the planned inn expansion, including the cost, or the proposal to property owners.
“We are committed to discussing the status of these possible modifications during meetings with the Sea Pines property owners beginning on May 30,” he said. “We are excited about the direction of these discussions. For now, that’s all I can say.”