After the Beaufort County Council shot down a zoning proposal Monday night that would have set the stage for a massive redevelopment project at Hilton Head National Golf Club, a major question remains.
What’s next for the 300-acre greater Bluffton site?
Here are some of the options in play.
It remains open as an 18-hole golf course.
While an option, representatives for course owners Scratch Golf LLC and parent firm the United Company have repeatedly said keeping the course open long-term is not financially viable.
The course owners keep their current rural zoning on the course.
The current rural zoning designation allows some construction on the site without Beaufort County Council permission.
The zoning “applies to areas that consist of sparsely settled lands in an open or cultivated state,” according to the county’s Community Development Code. “It may include large lot residential, farms where animals are raised or crops are grown, parks, woodland, grasslands, trails and open space areas.”
Rural zoning classification are “very low density and the uses are definitely limited,” Josh Tiller, a land planner with J.K. Tiller Associates LLC and a member of Bluffton Planning Commission, said Tuesday.
County code would allow the construction of about 100 homes on the site.
While the course owners would not need approval from the council to build a small development, they would still need to meet county requirements for items such as setbacks, construction permits and stormwater standards, county administrator Gary Kubic said.
The owners could submit a new rezoning application to the county.
That could be done immediately without any waiting period, Kubic said.
Truitt Rabun, a Hilton Head Island-based land planner, said Tuesday that the owners “need to understand how they fit into the community — not only what their vision is, but what the community’s vision is.”
Tiller said he thinks if the owners were to reapply for a zone change it would be wise to “scale back some of the density,” particularly in portions of the site closest to environmentally sensitive areas like the May River.
Kate Schaefer of Coastal Conservation League agreed that the course owners should pay special attention to environmental concerns.
“Done poorly, a high-density scenario in the Bluffton area could be a dangerous situation” for water quality in nearby wetlands, she said.
Scratch Golf’s original rezoning request would have allowed for the possibility of building 300 apartments, 300 homes, 400,000 square feet of retail space, 125,000 square feet of office space, a 500-room hotel, a 400-bed assisted-living facility, a 1,500-seat performing arts center, a convention center and a water park.
“There was just so much development all at once in one place,” Schaefer said of the proposal. “You can’t just throw spaghetti against the wall and see what sticks.”
The course owners could sue the county and appeal the council’s decision in court.
“They could take the county to task and hire lawyers to fight (the zoning request denial), but I think there are steps before that,” Rabun said.
Course owners would be best served if they “back up, think about the whole picture, and take a more comprehensive approach,” he said.
Kubic declined to comment on the possibility of legal action, but said, “I just assume that they will be discussing their options.”
After Monday’s County Council meeting, United Company president Martin Kent said before making any decisions on the project, “we are going to consult with our attorneys and go from there.”
In a written statement Monday night, Scratch Golf president Bill Palmer said, despite disappointment in the council’s decision, “we remain committed to a new future for Hilton Head National.”