The sale of four tennis courts on Hilton Head Island drew more controversy Tuesday as a nonprofit group sought funding from the town to convert the courts into a playground for low-income residents.
The town has been trying to sell its four deteriorated courts at Cordillo Courts II and The Hedge condominium complexes on Cordillo Parkway since 2013. But its first sales attempt got caught up in mayoral politics, with some candidates saying the sales price of $15,000 was too low.
On Monday, members of the Neighborhood Outreach Connection, which owns three units in Cordillo Courts and offers after-school programs there, objected to a new sales proposal made by the town that would turn the property back to the condo regimes as open space and pay to remove the courts. The NOC members argued that the town should build a playground for the 180 children from low-income families who live there.
“The town needs to ensure that these underserved neighborhoods are not shortchanged because they have no political voice,” said George Paletta, NOC board member. “This facility is their only place to play; there is no other.”
The town’s Public Facilities Committee recommended approval of the sale Monday, but would also entertain counter-offers from the regimes. Members agreed the area could be considered for a neighborhood park, but said the Cordillo spot was not the proper location because it was basically the front yard of a private condo complex.
“There are lots of other neighborhoods down there as well that have a lot of kids, and we’re not talking about going in and creating a playground in those neighborhoods,” said council member Kim Likins. “If we do determine that there just absolutely needs to be a town-owned playground in that area, then I think we have to look at the entire area and find out where’s the best place for every child in that area to be able to go to a playground.”
The new proposal puts a sales price of $265,000 on the 1.42 acres of town-owned property. But $250,000 of that amount would only be paid if the regimes sold or redeveloped the property. The town will actually end up spending about $50,000 to complete the transfer of the tennis courts to the regimes.
The town purchased the courts in 2002 from Van Der Meer tennis center for $250,000. The property is listed on Beaufort County tax records with a value of $675,600, but because of its location within the condo complex, town officials have said it is of little value unless the property was redeveloped.
The new sales proposal calls for the following:
▪ The regimes will pay $5,000 at closing. Another $10,000 will be paid within two years and can be deducted if the regimes invest that amount in making improvements to the property for recreational use.
▪ The town will remove the four courts and make other improvements before closing at a cost of $30,000. The town committee on Monday also recommended paying for sod and an irrigation system at an additional cost of about $22,000.
▪ The regimes cannot develop the property without prior consent from Town Council, and any change could result in the town demanding the $250,000 payment.
Representatives from the condos spoke in favor of the deal, saying it would remove a dangerous eyesore and provide open space for children to play. But they added that they wanted to address the details concerning the $250,000 payment should the condos be redeveloped.
The Neighborhood Outreach Connection’s representatives, however, implored the town to spend more for the property to turn it into a playground. The group has requested that the town spend $160,000 to cover the cost of removing the courts and install a playground.
Paletta said the town is spending millions to redevelop the Coligny area for a park, and it should apply funding to an underserved population. He said the town has shirked its responsibility in maintaining the courts over the years and is continuing to do so by leaving it up to the regimes.
“Let’s not let a lack of attention over the years turn into a vivid picture of town discrimination,” he said. “Pay for the mistake, create the park, make it usable for 180 children who come home from school every day. … 180 children whose mothers and fathers work in our community.”
Town manager Steve Riley, who developed the new proposal, said the courts have been underused for years despite a resurfacing in 2009.
“Trying to create a public park that serves a larger neighborhood when it looks like, seems like, feels like, and is, the front yard of a single condo property is not the best place for a public investment,” Riley said. “We frankly should never have bought it and have no business owning it, and we ought to dispose of it.”
Laughlin rethinks sale of Cordillo tennis courts, Oct. 15, 2014