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Update: Hilton Head could annex another island, inherit planned resort

This screengrab shows Bay Point Island northeast of Hilton Head Island.
This screengrab shows Bay Point Island northeast of Hilton Head Island. HiltonHead

Hilton Head Island’s mayor says a five-star resort is planned for a 347-acre island that Town Council could decide to annex Tuesday.

Bay Point Island LLC has filed a petition for annexation with the town for Bay Point Island. The island sits across the Port Royal Sound from Hilton Head Island.

Hilton Head Mayor David Bennett said Monday an “eco resort” by Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas out of Bangkok, Thailand, is being proposed for the island.

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The island is owned by European Investor Philippe Cahen, said Bay Point Island LLC spokesman Tom Gardo. He said Cahen has owned the island about 20 years.

Hours after the annexation announcement, conservationists were saying the move could present numerous environmental and financial challenges for the town. Yet Bennett said the annexation and resort could be a positive step for Hilton Head.

“This represents a significant opportunity for the Town of Hilton Head,” Bennett said. “This could enhance Hilton Head’s brand.”

Gardo said the proposed Hilton Head resort could be the first property in the United States for Six Senses.

Six Senses currently operates nine resorts in China, Maldives, Oman, Portugal, Seychelles, Thailand and Vietnam.

“They have a reputation of being excellent stewards of the environment,” Bennett said. “I think this resort fits in very well with the initial undertakings of the early developers.”

Bennett said the resort plans to use environmentally friendly water and sewer systems and doesn’t plan to build roads.

“We could receive about $1.5 million of net revenue annually with very little demand on services,” Bennett said.

Another reason for the annexation: The Town of Hilton Head along with the resort can piggyback off each others’ marketing efforts, Bennett said.

But Kate Parks Schaefer, South Coast Office director for the Coastal Conservation League, said there are always concerns when an annexation of property sits far outside a town’s borders, such as the Bay Point annexation.

“We have seen a number of egregious land annexation attempts,” Schaefer said. “This one may beat them all. Instead of investing in redevelopment, they would be accepting environmental responsibility for a barrier island beyond its borders.”

Annexation of Bay Point would destroy natural resources and could be a financial burden for the town, Schaefer said.

“They would be accepting ownership over the property in terms of municipal services — police, fire and water,” she said.

Gardo said Six Senses plans to build a fully self-sustaining property.

“The town has virtually no costs to provide resources,” he said. “That is one of the key benefits for the town.”

The developer and resort plan to cover the cost of water, sewer and beach renourishment projects, Gardo said.

“I think once they see how unique this particular company is in building these resorts, they will see that a lot of their initial concerns will go away or disappear,” he said.

Six Senses was interested in Hilton Head partly because of its environmental model, Gardo said.

“They want to embrace everything that Hilton Head offers and take it to the next level,” he said.

Cahen, also owner of Luxembourg-based Continental Finance Group, already has an agreement with Six Senses for development of the island in place, Gardo said.

Steve Riley, town manager, said the island is only accessible by water and is currently undeveloped. He said the town is able to annex the land because it can be seen from the shores of Hilton Head Island.

Developers and town officials would need to agree on zoning — along with a development agreement, before the annexation is finalized — if the petition is approved at the council’s regular meeting Tuesday afternoon, Riley said.

Gardo said there are numerous approval processes at the local and state level that the development needs to go through before work could start on the project. He was unable to give a timeline for the proposed project.

Teresa Moss: 843-706-8152, @TeresaIPBG

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