The Hilton Head Island Town Council on Tuesday approved creating an ad hoc committee to address zoning laws that some in the Gullah community say make it difficult for them to pass down land to descendants.
Council members said the committee will be made up of native islanders.
“I don’t think the status quo is going to get something done here,” mayor David Bennett said. “We really need to hear from the native islanders about their issues.”
Native islanders called for change during an impromptu discussion at a Town Council meeting last month. The men and women who spoke were concerned about zoning laws that require the addition of infrastructure, such as roads, to land that is subdivided.
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Many said current laws have become a barrier for families wanting to gain title to their land, which, in many cases, has been passed down from descendants of slaves.
The issue took on heightened awareness after the Hilton Head Island chapter of the National Action Network announced a protest of the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing golf tournament. The group later canceled the protest, saying they were hopeful about a resolution after talking with town officials.
Taiwan Scott, NAN chapter president, said Wednesday he believes the newly created committee is a step in the right direction.
“We know the issues that we are faced with,” he said. “It is important that we have our view at the table.”
Scott said the town previously has asked the Gullah community to address issues and provide recommendations. He noted the “Regional Urban Design Assistance Team Study” was produced in 1995, and the town later created a committee of native islanders to address the report.
“This study from 20-plus years ago pretty much addressed the issues we still have today,” Scott said. “We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. It is already there. Let’s get it moving.”