Three properties off William Hilton Parkway near Palmetto Dunes could be used for additional retail uses if a request approved Wednesday by the Town of Hilton Head Island Planning Commission is adopted.
The commission voted unanimously to change the zoning of a vacant building, shopping center and office building from low-density office and park use to a higher-density commercial center.
The change allows uses that include retail and auto sales, shopping center, bar, nightclub, dance studio, convenience store, tattoo parlor, supermarket and community theater. Fast-food restaurants, adult entertainment, liquor store and auto repair among others are permitted with special exception under the zoning change.
Dale Johnson made the request on behalf of Wayne Johnson, Southcoast Community Bank and South Island Square LLC.
Johnson said his clients have been unable to sell or lease the vacant medical building, which has been empty since 2007. Rezoning the area to allow commercial business will make it easier to market the properties, according to Johnson and town staff.
Town staff argue -- and commissioners agreed -- that despite the current zoning, the area is commercially oriented. Uses under the rezoning would not be different from what's already there, they said. Across from the properties are a hotel, bank, restaurant and gas station.
Town council earlier this year approved a separate rezoning request for two nearby properties for retail use.
"The (low-intensity office use created by the zoning district) has not worked for this area, which has a lot of commercial uses that pre-date implementation of the zoning district," said senior town planner Nicole Dixon. "The district functions as a commercial area, and I don't expect that to change."
The existing zoning district was established to minimize the effect of travel on the streets, encourage better compatibility in and among land uses on the island and provide a balance among land-use types along major corridors, Dixon said.
Town staff and commissioners said access to the site off of William Hilton Parkway seems adequate and believe the town needs to do a better job helping owners develop and redevelop their properties.
Joann and John Binkley, whose Palmetto Dunes home is next to one of the properties, spoke against the rezoning. The couple said they were concerned retail use of the properties would disturb nearby homeowners through increased noise, traffic and light.
The issue moves to Town Council's Planning and Development Standards Committee Sept. 28 at 4 p.m. before going to the full council for final approval.
Follow staff writer Tom Barton at twitter.com/EyeOnHiltonHead.