Legislation that would create a special tax district to pay for dredging Sea Pines' creeks and marinas is dead in the water, according to a Beaufort County senator.
However, the bill's sponsor, Rep. Andy Patrick, R-Hilton Head Island, contends it might still move forward.
Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, on Tuesday said creating the tax district is inappropriate, given overwhelming response from Sea Pines homeowners who opposed it and plantation covenants that provide a way for owners to assess themselves for community improvements without government involvement.
Some residents have questioned whether the bill is an attempt by the two boards representing Sea Pines homeowners to circumvent the covenants.
Mike Hellman, president of the Sea Pines property owners association board, declined to comment.
The bill would allow municipal councils to levy an assessment on properties within the special tax district without owner consent, similar to current legislation for dredging and widening canals. The bill adds the words "and waterways," allowing money to be spent on dredging marinas, too.
The bill passed the S.C. House 89-0 on April 13 and was referred to a Senate judiciary committee, of which Davis is a member.
A petition is circulating in Sea Pines asking Davis to withdraw the bill, something he cannot do because he is not the sponsor and because the bill already passed the House.
To move forward under Senate rules, however, Davis must request a hearing on the bill, something he says he will not do. If no action is taken during the next legislative session that begins in January, the bill dies. Davis says that is as it should be.
"Sea Pines owners have made it very clear that they prefer to address this dredging issue themselves, rather than having government involved," he said.
Davis said he will continue speaking with Sea Pines homeowners this summer and fall and will hold public forums to discuss dredging.
Patrick said Tuesday he felt the bill was -- and might still be -- an appropriate tool to finance dredging in Sea Pines, after consulting with local elected officials, state regulators, environmental groups and resident and non-resident Sea Pines homeowners.
He said it was never his intent to impose a tax without the expressed consent of those affected and that he had discussed with Davis amending the bill in the Senate to require a taxpayer referendum before implementation.
Patrick said he agrees with Davis that more input should be sought from those in Sea Pines. He suggested the bill could still move forward in January after key questions of costs and benefits to taxpayers have been determined.
"There's a lot of time until January to see if this is a path we want to take as a community, or another path taxpayers want to take that may be more appropriate," he said.
Davis called Patrick's bill "a sincere effort to address a complicated problem."
"Everyone agrees the yacht basin and other island waterways must be improved and maintained, and working together we will figure it out," he said.
Follow staff writer Tom Barton at twitter.com/EyeOnHiltonHead.
- Sea Pines board might consider rescinding dredging resolution: July 12, 2011
- Sea Pines official: Homeowners 'will not pay a penny' to dredge Harbour Town: July 11, 2011
- Sea Pines residents alarmed by community dredging resolution: July 8, 2011
- Bill would let town create tax district for Sea Pines to pay for dredging waterways: April 22, 2011