Some Sea Pines property owners are concerned a rental pass policy change will lead to more congestion at the gate beginning at the end of this month.
The new policy — effective April 30 — will no longer allow renters to pick up their pass at the Sea Pines Resort Welcome Center.
Instead, owners who rent their property or rental companies must request passes two weeks in advance. They must then pick them up or have them mailed. Then, they must mail the pass to their renters, according to a release from the Sea Pines Community Services Associates.
Owners who rent can also request a weekly guest voucher, which can be exchanged at the gate for a weekly pass.
Renters who don't have a pass or voucher when they get to the gate can choose to purchase a weekly pass for $20, according to the release. That's $10 less than what is normally charged for a weekly pass, according to the price listed on the Sea Pines CSA website.
"This new process eliminates the need for most renters to pick up their passes from the Sea Pines Welcome Center, expedites the pass process and reduces congestion at the Sea Pines Welcome Center," the release said.
Bret Martin, CSA president, said in a statement sent through the Lou Hammond Group, a public relations firm, that the policy aims to "alleviate the congestion at the Sea Pines Welcome Center Pass Office," and will help "provide the best possible entrance experience for all."
Martin noted the process will be monitored and adjusted as needed.
The new process does not apply to those renting through the Sea Pines Resort, or to property owners calling in a pass for personal guests, according to the CSA release.
John Munro, vice president of sales and marketing for the resort, said the resort has been in discussions with CSA leadership for a year about how to lessen the congestion at the gate and the welcome center.
This policy, he said, is mainly in response to an increase in the number of property owners who manage their own rental unit.
He said guests often don't know where to pick up their passes, and lines to get them are often long. This system change, he said, aims to cut down on the congestion and confusion.
He said most rental companies already request passes in advance and mail them to renters, similarly to the new policy.
Munro denied that the change was designed to make the welcome center more exclusive for resort guests.
Although the change grew from a desire to cut down on congestion and confusion, some property owners think it will do the opposite.
Dana Advocaat, a property owner, is among others who fear the new system will bottleneck the entrance to Sea Pines more than it is now. That's because guests may make more transactions with the new system by either purchasing a weekly pass or exchanging a voucher for a pass at the gate, holding up traffic behind them.
"The transactions should not happen at the gate," Advocaat said. "If you're waved through the gate, you get through in a second. If you stop to make a transaction, it becomes a problem."
Don Gilbert, a property owner who rents out a home, said he is concerned that the new policy will cause confusion.
"I just see chaos coming," he said. "The private renters like me have been hit hard twice. First it was the beach parking, now this."
Gilbert said a 90-day notice would have been better than the under-30-day notice property owners were given, because he now has to call renters to whom he has already explained the process to inform them the process has changed.
This comes on the heels of a change to parking at the Sea Pines Beach Club, which also raised concerns among some residents. Beginning on Memorial Day, some visitors may have to pay a $10 fee to use the Beach Club's parking lot.