Town of Hilton Head Island taxpayers only stand to benefit from a decision to rethink the sale of the Cordillo Parkway tennis courts.
The town paid $250,000 in cash to buy the courts from Van Der Meer Tennis in 2002. But today, the courts are underused and in need of repairs. Town Council is considering selling them to the homeowners associations at The Hedges and Cordillo Courts II condominium complexes.
Other courts are available around the island for residents to use, town leaders have reasoned. And the $300,000 to $400,000 price tag to rebuild the lighted courts, add bathrooms and expand parking isn't worth the additional investment, they have said.
At least, that's what they were saying until a surprise fact emerged. Current Beaufort County property records value the 1.4-acre site at a whopping $675,600.
Confusion exists over whether the property can be developed and is worth six figures, as the county record claims, or whether development is restricted on the property, as town leaders claim. If so, the land would be pretty much worthless.
County assessor Ed Hughes said the six-figure value listed online is likely wrong since the county doesn't appraise tax-exempt properties. The county relies on a computer model that plugs in a number based on the value of nearby properties. No county staffer checks behind the computer.
But just to make sure it's a computer error, Mayor Drew Laughlin, who initially voted in favor of the sale because he thought it could not be developed, has halted the sale. Taken to task by challengers in the mayoral race over the transaction, Laughlin has instructed town staff to do more research to make sure the property cannot be developed.
"What we had been given to understand about the covenants, restrictions and constraints on the use of the property may not have been completely accurate," Laughlin said. "I'm not saying it wasn't. But there became a question in my mind and ... I wanted to be sure those questions were answered completely."
We wish this due diligence had been done earlier. We also wish the town had been better at predicting that Cordillo Parkway was a bad spot for a park with tennis courts. The $250,000 purchase price was likely not worth the amount of use the courts have gotten in the past dozen years. And it's not clear why the town has allowed the tennis courts to fall into such disrepair in recent years.
The town has obviously made some bad decisions with the courts. Its job is to make sure another one doesn't happen by practically giving away a valuable asset.