More than 50 residents attended the Design Review Board meeting -- an unusually large crowd for the twice-a-month gathering -- and several audience members spoke in favor of and against the new clubhouse.
Board members offered compliments and relatively minor recommendations about the project, which would be constructed on the existing club's site off North Sea Pines Drive near Plantation Golf Club.
The board discussed window width, bracketing and floor elevation but did not weigh in on the audience's primary criticism: That the plan offers inadequate parking for Sea Pines residents and visitors wanting to use the beach.
"Parking is an ongoing concern, and it'll continue to be studied ... but our function here today is to deal with the design aspect," said board chairman Scott Sodemann in response to criticisms made by some Sea Pines residents, including Tom Kemeny.
"I'm all for progress, and all this infrastructure is very old, and it is time to renew," Kemeny said. "But this has to be done within the restraints we have -- 158 car parking spaces is not adequate."
The beach facility currently has 178 spaces. The rebuilt club would offer 20 fewer, but still more than the minimum of 50 spaces required by Sea Pines Resort covenants.
Whether the number of parking spaces is sufficient will be decided when town staff takes up its review of the development plan for the project. Those discussions will not be in a public forum. However, any decision could be appealed and brought before the public at the town's Board of Zoning Appeals, according to town Land Management Ordinance official Teri Lewis.
Most commercial buildings on Hilton Head are required to provide a specific number of parking spaces in relation to the size of the building. A beach club, however, is not.
Sea Pines Resort has not yet submitted a development plan. That review often follows final approval from the design review board, Lewis said.
A more detailed plan will be submitted to the design board sometime next month, said Sea Pines Resort president Steve Birdwell.
The resort is planning to deal with the dearth of parking spaces. Among the solutions are tripling the number of bicycle parking spots, offering a van to shuttle guests from the Inn at Harbour Town, offsite employee parking and overflow parking at the nearby Plantation Golf Club, Birdwell said.
He called the current beach club, built more than 40 years ago, "dated," "worn" and "in desperate need of replacement."
The remade club would be a two-story building with more than 25,000 feet of indoor and outdoor areas, including an indoor restaurant and bar; a fast-casual food counter with sandwiches, salads and drinks; an open-air beach bar; a second-floor space for private events; retail and office space; and expanded restrooms, showers and changing rooms.
The new club will be "a tremendous community asset" that will increase property values for Sea Pines property owners, Birdwell said.
Barring permitting delays, construction on the project could begin this fall.
Follow reporter Brian Heffernan at twitter.com/IPBG_Brian