A Bay Point Island request for annexation will be vetted through four public hearings and numerous meetings extending over three to nine months, Hilton Head Island Town Manager Steve Riley told Town Council during its annual retreat Friday.
“The length of time really is about how long it takes to wrap up a developer’s agreement,” Riley said. “At this point, we have not seen a sufficiently detailed plan of the property. We would need to evaluate that plan.”
Developers of the 347-acre island are proposing a five-star resort from Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas out of Bangkok, Thailand. The island is currently covered under Beaufort County zoning.
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Tom Gardo, spokesperson for the Bay Point Island project, said Friday it is likely detailed plans won’t be submitted until the end of the first quarter of 2017 to allow the town and Bay Point officials more time to recover from Hurricane Matthew.
Riley said public hearings will need to be held on a zoning classification, comprehensive plan and development agreement for the project. Each also will require two ordinance readings by Town Council, he said.
If all the ordinances are approved, the town could move forward with annexing the property, which would require an additional two ordinance readings, Riley said.
Town Council engaged in very limited discussions about the plan during the workshop.
John McCann, council member, said he still had a lot of questions about the proposed annexation.
“You can use the Hilton Head name without being annexed into it,” McCann said. “The question is, why? I have asked this question multiple times. The public really doesn’t know why they want to be annexed here, nor do I. One of the answers is that it is easier to deal with us than Beaufort (County) — well, that is nice.”
Kim Likins, council member, disagreed with McCann.
“It would be interesting to know this, but frankly I don’t care,” she said. “The answer we need for our constituents is, why do we want to do it?”
Council member Marc Grant said the resort will create jobs for the region, which would be a benefit.
The Hilton Head brand could be positively impacted by the resort, said council member David Ames.
“Conceptually, they are looking at a development that would bring benefits to the Hilton Head brand,” Ames said. “Yet, if not developed in the way that we are told it would be developed, it would be detrimental to our brand.”
Six Senses has said it plans to build an “eco-friendly” resort, building upon the environmental foundation already established on Hilton Head Island.
The proposed annexation has received criticism from outside groups such as the Coastal Conservation League.
“Bay Point Island development is not an example of environment stewardship because annexation and development would result in habitat loss and beachfront development of a small barrier island — that if left in Beaufort County would remain under rural zoning protections,” Kate Schaefer, CCL’s South Coast Office director, said Friday.