Hilton Head Island hasn't had a water park since Waterfun Park closed its slides in 2007 after 27 years of operation.
That could change soon, regardless of what residents of neighboring Hilton Head Plantation might think.
Town officials say there's little they could do to block the plan for the site off Squire Pope Road, as long as the developer follows the town's design rules. The land is already zoned to allow a water park, they say, and the plans do not require Town Council approval.
"If it's a by-right use, and if he complies with the rules of the road, I'm not sure there's a whole lot we could do one way or another," Mayor Drew Laughlin said, adding that he is open to the proposal.
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Laughlin cited zoning issues as a key impediment for developers hoping to build a water park in the past, adding that the new proposal might reflect an improving economy.
"There was a time when no one wanted to invest in that kind of park," he said.
Michael Kronimus, a Bluffton developer hoping to revitalize a 10-acre plot on the Salty Fare site, stressed that the park would not be as large or ostentatious as neighbors might fear.
"This is not going to be like Myrtle Beach," he said. "This will be small, only about four acres."
Waterfun Park, by comparison, was on about five and a half acres at South Forest Beach.
Kronimus also hopes to have two restaurants on the site, part of what he says could be a family-friendly environment on a portion of the island that has fallen into disuse.
"We're trying to make a totally new environment," he said. "People could walk down the boardwalk, get some ice cream, have something for their kids to do."
Kronimus, executive principal with KRA Inc., an architectural firm in Bluffton, had earlier proposed building a 140-room boutique hotel on the site. That plan was opposed by residents of The Cypress of Hilton Head, a retirement community in Hilton Head Plantation beside the property.
Citing those concerns, Kronimus abandoned his hotel plans, which would have required a zoning change, and revealed his new ideas Wednesday.
"This is not a slap in the face to (the residents)," he said, acknowledging some might disapprove of the park. "But the owner has a right to develop that land."
The new proposal would not need those residents' approval or Town Council's, according to Anne Cyran, a town senior planner.
The property's commercial zoning designation would not have to be altered, she explained, adding that the proposal needs only the approval of the town's Design Review Board.
Because the park would be adjacent to Hilton Head Plantation, Cyran said, it would need the approval of its architectural review board. That board would not be able to amend the land's proposed use.
It could, however, request changes to certain aesthetic elements, such as the park's height, colors, landscaping and materials.
Hilton Head Plantation resident Roy Plekenpol said he wouldn't endorse it, no matter what it looked like.
"There's a reason we live here and not Sea Pines," he said. "This is not a touristy area."
He praised Kronimus' efforts to develop the Salty Fare area -- "That's what we want him to do," he said -- but doubted the project would fit the surroundings.
"This is a retirement community and not the place for something like that," he said. "This isn't Myrtle Beach."