Those shopping at Sea Pines Center would pay a $10 gate fee but would reimbursed $4 under the terms of a compromise being pushed by a Sea Pines group.
The Alliance for Sea Pines Future, a group formed last year, said the proposed gate fee increase — from the current rate of $6 — could be accomplished through a system in which those who spend money at the Sea Pines Center would be partially reimbursed to offset the increased gate fee.
“It’s fair to say most folks are for an increase,” Greg Morris, the founder of Alliance, said Tuesday. “It’s overdue and fair. It’s going to require cooperation and compromise.”
The plan, he said, could increase revenue for the community while also encouraging people to shop at the Sea Pines Center.
In an email sent Tuesday, the group pointed to an agreement signed in 1987 which grants the Sea Pines Center the right to use roads and bike paths from the gates to the shopping center.
“It gives (the Sea Pines Center) control over the gate fee for use of that (road) easement,” the email said. “It does not give (the Sea Pines Center) control over the gate fee charged for the entire community.” As long as any gate policy changes “do not materially affect the access to” the shops, changes can be made, according to the agreement.
Dana Advocaat, a property owner and member of Alliance, said it’s time to increase the gate fee to generate revenue to deal with the wear and tear to Sea Pines roadways.
“Legally, it should be able to happen,” Advocaat said. “It could work. We could increase the fee to $10.”
Jean McElroy, communications coordinator for the Sea Pines Community Services Associates, declined to comment Tuesday.
CSA, along with the Association of Sea Pines Plantation Property Owners, the Sea Pines Resort and the Sea Pines Center must agree to any gate policy changes.
Three CSA board members who represent commercial interests — Bob Gossett, Don Sigmon and Mark King — did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Sea Pines Resort previously said it was in favor of a gate fee increase, which was part of the terms of a referendum to expand The Inn & Club at Harbour Town. That referendum was put on hold before it could go to a vote, which was originally scheduled for fall 2017.
In June 2017, ASPPPO and CSA voted to increase the gate fee from $6 to $10 during the summer months. The Sea Pines Center, however, opposed the fee hike, fearing the effect it would have on business.
ASPPPO board members said at the time the fee hike could increase revenue by about $700,000, though the exact figure is difficult to predict because it’s unknown if the increase would reduce traffic into the community.
The last gate fee increase happened in 2013, when it was raised from $5 to $6.