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Hilton Head fence blocking bike path stays put

The fence standoff continues.

A chain-link fence blocking a bike path leading into Hilton Head Plantation mysteriously appeared early this month, angering residents and prompting town officials to order the fence to be removed within five days.

On July 15, the deadline, the property owner filed an application to permit the fence, according to assistant town manager Josh Gruber.

The application from the owner of Main Street Office Park is being processed, Gruber said Wednesday. In the meantime, the fence is allowed to stay.

Main Street Office Park is directly outside the gates of Hilton Head Plantation, and for 28 years its parking lot has been at the end of a Plantation-owned bike path. Before the July 4th holiday, the office park installed a fence to block bicyclists from riding through the parking lot — effectively pushing bike traffic into Whopping Crane Way and its busy traffic circle.

NOW WHAT ISSUES DO THEY FACE WITH THE TOWN??

On Wednesday, a representative of the property owner expressed hope that the dispute could be resolved quickly. “We are really hoping we can resolve this in the next day or two,” Katie Thompson, with Low Country Real Estate of the Southeast, said. “We met with Peter [Kristian, Plantation general manager] on Friday and are hopeful we can come to a solution.”

Kristian said Main Street Office Park’s owner told him the fence was installed for “liability issues,” and he “made no attempt to contact (Hilton Head Plantation) about any liability concerns, or that they were considering such drastic actions.”

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A bike pathway shown in purple on Whopping Crane Way in Hilton Head Plantation abruptly ends in the Main Street Office Park Parking lot. This week, the owner of the office park put up a fence to stop cyclists and pedestrians from using the path. Katherine Kokal Google Maps

“Residents and visitors have used this connection for decades without incident,” Kristian said.

But Thompson said it’s getting busier.

“There are more cars and bike riders in the parking lot than 30 years ago so it has become increasingly unsafe to have bikes riding through a busy parking lot,” according to a statement from Thompson.

The office park’s owner “offered to donate (at no cost) a portion of land to extend the sidewalk all the way to Main Street in order to assist with creating a safe pathway for his residents ... The owner also offered to immediately take down the fence if Mr. Kristian would agree to provide a letter stating that the Hilton Head Plantation Owners Association would assume liability if someone was to get injured while walking or biking through the complex,” Thompson said.

Kristian said the two parties’ lawyers are now discussing the legality of the fence.

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A fence blocking bike traffic near the entrance to Hilton Head Plantation on July 3, 2019. A property owners association near the pathway put up the fence to avoid liability since it empties into a parking lot. Carol Pollard-Huester Special to The Island Packet

The property owner has filed a $50 application to allow the fence, said Gruber, the assistant town manager, and while the application is pending, the fence will remain and the property owner will not incur any fees.

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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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