The owner of two attached houses on Heron Street, dubbed by critics as a “mini-hotel,” has 30 days to either remove a large deck connecting the newly built homes or file a court appeal.
This comes after a decision Monday afternoon by Hilton Head’s Board of Zoning Appeals to reverse a decision by Teri Lewis, the town’s land management ordinance official, to waive setback and buffer requirements, allowing the two properties to function together as a single unit — a waiver that had never been used before in a single-family residential district.
“I think it was abuse of discretion,” said David Fingerhut, the BZA chairman, during the board’s deliberation. “I also do not believe the properties function as a single development.”
The two identical 3,100-square-foot homes at 3 and 5 Heron St., located in the North Forest Beach area on the island’s south end, have been a point of controversy for residents because of the common wooden deck.
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Residents contend they fear the connected properties will be the site of large, loud tourist parties in their quiet neighborhood. The owner of the two properties, Shane Gould, has said previously he intended the properties to be rented by multi-generational families.
Gould, who was called to answer questions during Monday’s hearing, said the homes could be rented together or separately. Previously, Dru Brown, director of sales and marketing for The Vacation Company, said the homes were being rented by an extended family.
Gould and his attorney left Monday’s hearing immediately after the BZA’s decision.
The Forest Beach Owners Association claims the common deck was not included in the plans approved by its architectural review board and appealed Lewis’ decision to the BZA. Town documents show the deck was built before a permit was obtained and was not included in plans submitted to the town.
Forest Beach residents David Schweiger and Renea Hushour, who filed a separate appeal from the FBOA, each argued Monday against Lewis’ decision to waive setback and buffer requirements.
“We are moving toward hotels,” Schweiger told the BZA. “This is not a resort neighborhood and should not become one.”
Hushour, who lives across from the connected houses, said the two properties have created a disturbance in the neighborhood, and asked that the natural buffer be restored.
“There was substantial noise coming from there,” she told the board. “There’s no way to stop it. It’s a tunnel. It’s a megaphone.”
Questioned Monday by attorney Russell Patterson on behalf of the FBOA, Lewis said she considered the shared space between the properties in granting the waiver, adding she would have granted it even if the common deck had not yet been built.
“It’s the essence of the shared common space that makes these two properties function together,” Greg Alford, town attorney, said during the hearing.
At the direction of mayor David Bennett, the town’s Land Management Ordinance Committee has started drafting an amendment to the LMO that would prohibit the waiver granted for the Heron Street development to be used in single-family residential districts again.
Besides appealing Lewis’ decision to the BZA, the FBOA has also filed a lawsuit against Gould alleging violation of its covenants.