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Rezoning for 260 apartments on Hilton Head gets first approval from town leaders

Hilton Head Island Town Council approved a request to rezone the Hilton Head Christian Academy site for 260 apartments Monday night among a crowd of nearby neighbors and Hilton Head Christian Academy officials who distributed stickers to support the project.

Town Council will get one more pass at the request in the second and final reading in July, according to the town meeting calendar.

This was not the first time — or even the second — that members of council heard the request to rezone the campus property for apartments from Spandrel Development Partners.

In April, the development partners brought the request to council for the first time. After two hours of fiery public comment from nearby homeowners and others on the island who knocked the apartments, the firm’s legal counsel withdrew the application.

Removing the request before council could vote it down prevented Spandrel from entering into a town-mandated waiting period before applying again.

One month later, the firm was back on the island with a new plan for the apartments.

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Katherine Kokal The Island Packet

The newest proposal consists of three 55-foot-tall buildings and one 45-foot-tall building that contain 260 total apartments on the 13.8-acre site. The original plan was for 300 apartments.

The plan for rezoning was heavily supported by the Hilton Head Christian Academy. The rezoning would make the school able to sell its property for a higher price before it moves to Bluffton in 2020, according to members of council.

Ward 3 representative David Ames was opposed to the request to rezone, citing “urbanization” and the burden it would place on the island’s infrastructure and U.S. 278.

“This development and other developments will not pay for that, the residents of this island will pay for that,” he said, before casting the only vote against the request.

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The most current plan for the Hilton Head Christian Academy campus by Spandrel Development Partners. A previous application to rezone the site for 300 apartments was withdrawn after two hours of public comment on the issue on April 2. Spandrel Development Partners, released.

An ever-changing plan for Hilton Head Christian Academy

The journey back to town council’s agenda was filled with requests from the government, neighbors and volunteer committees.

Town leaders asked that the apartments — originally priced starting at $1,200 a month for a studio — somewhat address the island’s workforce housing shortage.

In response, Spandrel said it would reserve five percent of its units for workforce housing similar to Bluffton’s model of addressing affordable housing. That means around 13 units will be priced “below market value” for at least 20 years, according to developer Emmanuel Neuman from Spandrel.

Neuman said a below-market unit may be priced around $850 per month for a studio to $1,100 for a two-bedroom. The rest of the units, he said, will rent at the original rates of $1,200 to $2,800 per month.

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Katherine Kokal The Island Packet

Prior to Tuesday’s vote, members of the planning commission also suggested the developers take further measures to stop the apartments from ever becoming timeshares. The current proposal includes a 20-year restriction on conversion to units for sale.

On Tuesday, Walter Nester, legal counsel for Spandrel, said the restriction on conversion for sale wouldn’t be extended beyond 20 years.

“That changes the financing too much. It is a problem for us,” Nester said. “We took a look at Indigo Run planned unit development (zoning), and timeshare is a prohibited use. We believe the 20-year restriction is appropriate.”

The new plan from Spandrel also includes a dense buffer and 6-foot fence between the buildings and the neighboring Old Woodlands community.

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The most current buffer plan for the Hilton Head Christian Academy campus by Spandrel Development Partners. A previous application to rezone the site for 300 apartments was withdrawn after two hours of public comment on the issue on April 2. Spandrel Development Partners, released.

Town Council will vote on the request for the final time on July 16.

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Katherine Kokal moved to South Carolina in 2018 after graduating from the University of Missouri and loves everything about the Lowcountry that isn’t a Palmetto Bug. She has won South Carolina Press Association awards for in-depth and government beat reporting. On the weekends, you can find Kati doing yoga and hiking Pinckney Island.
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