Two groups working to mold Sea Pines’ future — and claiming to follow the vision of founder Charles Fraser — are at odds over the Sea Pines board elections.
At the center of the dispute is a postponed Sea Pines Resort referendum, which, if approved, would have allowed the resort to invest $70 million to $100 million to expand The Inn & Club and make improvements to Harbour Town.
One group — Alliance for Sea Pines Future — openly opposed the referendum because it felt there were not enough benefits for residents. Alliance has backed three candidates for the Association of Sea Pines Plantation Property Owners board, a voluntary organization, and three for the Community Services Associates board, which oversees Sea Pines administration.
On Friday Nov. 3, a new, unnamed, group emerged when a letter and petition with more than 350 signatures went out to all Sea Pines property owners endorsing four candidates for the two boards that govern Sea Pines.
The letter generally supports Sea Pines Resort and criticizes the Alliance group.
“This year, a small group of dissident residents have made totally unrealistic promises to renegotiate many covenants, which will result in board gridlock and a denigration of the Sea Pines brand,” the letter said. “Failing to vote in this election could allow them a disproportionate role in selecting our next CSA and ASPPPO board members.”
Alliance recently spoke out against candidate endorsement by Sea Pines Resort president Steve Birdwell, who supports the same candidates as the petition.
Three Sea Pines residents who were part of a group of about 20 that crafted the letter and petition are angered because they say Alliance is denigrating the community and have offered no solutions to problems.
But Alliance founder Greg Morris said those accusations are “unfair and inaccurate.”
“I’m really taken aback by the mean-spirited response to reasonable concerns of a large number of owners,” Morris said. “I think they live in a bubble and don’t stop to think about others’ concerns.”
Morris said the petition signers don’t understand the position of Alliance.
“We actually agree on most everything,” he said. “There needs to be a cooperative spirit instead of an attack.”
But Rosemary Kimball, a Sea Pines property owner involved with creating the letter, said she doesn’t think the groups have much in common.
“Our group is happy with the (referendum) proposal,” she said. “They (Alliance) seem to want to litigate, and our group is not interested in that.”
Becky Pardue, another Sea Pines property owner involved with the letter, said Alliance is “doing their best to tear us apart.”
“Our only mission is to protect what we have,” said Pardue. “I feel like there’s this black cloud — I call it a cancer — over Sea Pines and it’s really made me consider moving.”
Lauri Allenbach, who was also involved with the letter, said it was written because “somebody needed to speak out about the positive side.”
Dana Advocaat, an Alliance-backed candidate for ASPPPO, said Alliance isn’t there to cause dissension or board gridlock, but to “let thousands of people who want a new direction have their voices heard.”
Kerry de Vallette, an Alliance-backed candidate for CSA, said the group who signed the petition are reacting to fear, uncertainty and doubt.
“A lot of these folks don’t do their research and they hear the message from their leaders and believe it,” he said, noting Alliance is not against the resort.
Ballots for the Sea Pines elections were mailed Nov. 1 and are due back on Dec. 1, CSA director of communications Amanda Sutcliffe-Jones said previously.
Here’s what each group wants for the future of Sea Pines:
Alliance for Sea Pines Future:
▪ For the ASPPPO board: Daniel Westerbeck, Dana Advocaat, Christopher Cliffe
▪ For the CSA board: Sharon Lowe, Kerry de Vallette, Stu Rodman
▪ Any future Sea Pines Resort referendum must address “economic fairness, quality of life, and governance for constituents,” according to the Alliance website.
▪ More open and transparent communication between board members and property owners
▪ Complete financial disclosure from CSA. If additional revenue is required, the group wants the “current imbalance” between residents, commercial interests and the resort addressed.
▪ A willingness of CSA and ASPPPO to pursue litigation “as a last resort” to resolve issues between residents, commercial interests and the resort
▪ An “unwavering commitment to the Charles Fraser vision” in Sea Pines
Property owners opposing Alliance:
▪ For the ASPPPO board: James Richardson, Rich Speer, Bill Johnson
▪ For the CSA board: James Richardson, Rich Speer, Bill Johnson, Stu Rodman
▪ For board members to be elected who recognize Sea Pines property owners benefit from the resort and the millions of dollars it has invested
▪ For board members to “unite to assure that Sea Pines remains a dynamic, world-class resort and residential community as Charles Fraser intended,” according to the letter.