In 2002, the Town of Hilton Head Island paid $250,000 for tennis courts on Cordillo Parkway.
Now it's selling those courts for $15,000 despite the property being valued at $675,600, according to Beaufort County online records.
Some residents wonder why the town is willing to accept such a low price.
"I would like the town to explain why it was worth so much then and they are selling it for $15,000 now," said Kate Keep, founder of Hilton Head TEA Party.
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Town officials say the property cannot be developed because of density limits that require it remain as open space. Those limits render the property relatively worthless and are not reflected in the county's appraisal, town manager Steve Riley said Tuesday.
They also contend that fixing the underused and aging courts wouldn't be worth the money.
"As tennis courts, it's more of a liability than an asset," Mayor Drew Laughlin said.
"I think I could safely say that if we could get someone to pay us $600,000 for it we would do that," he added.
The town wants to sell the courts to homeowners associations at The Hedges and Cordillo Courts II, condominium complexes next to the courts.
The courts need repairs. Estimates show it would cost $300,000 to $400,000 to rebuild the lighted hard courts, add bathrooms and expand parking at the 1.47-acre site, according to Riley.
Town Council will vote on the sale Oct. 21.
If approved, the potential for development is limited, Riley said.
The associations could not build on the property without knocking down their complexes and building anew, leaving the same amount of open space as town density rules require.
The homeowners associations have not disclosed any plans for such construction.
Board members have suggested building new tennis courts, basketball courts or a park with a playground, but no decisions have been made, Cordillo Courts II board member Sam Allman said last week. Attempts to reach Allman on Tuesday night were unsuccessful.
If you can't build on the property, why is it valued so high?
County assessor Ed Hughes said the value listed online is likely wrong.
The county doesn't appraise tax-exempt properties such as the town's tract. Instead, it uses a model that plugs in a number based on the value of nearby properties.
"We have to put a value on it but it is not scrutinized or reviewed by an official appraiser," Hughes said. He declined to estimate the value of the property Tuesday.
But the town bought the four courts from Van Der Meer Tennis for $250,000 more than a decade ago. What about a return on its investment?
Riley said buying the existing courts in 2002 was cheaper than building new ones. The town has since upgraded six public tennis courts at the mid-island Chaplin Community Park and expects to build more there.
The Cordillo courts "have been an experiment that hasn't worked out," he said. "We got a dozen years out of these courts. We just found out that's not the best place to put a park."
Follow reporter Dan Burley on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Dan.
- Hilton Head Island plans to sell Cordillo tennis courts, Oct. 7, 2014