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Will Hilton Head get a new golf course? Residents, leaders question town’s lease

Hurricane debris still visible from US 278

Work to remove debris is slow moving on land at Planter's Row Golf Course on Hilton Head Island between Dillon and Union Cemetery roads off US 278. The town-owned land is leased to Heritage Golf Group and has been a staging ground for debris short
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Work to remove debris is slow moving on land at Planter's Row Golf Course on Hilton Head Island between Dillon and Union Cemetery roads off US 278. The town-owned land is leased to Heritage Golf Group and has been a staging ground for debris short

A new par 3 executive golf course may be coming to Hilton Head’s north end after the island’s Town Council voted to extend the lease on a property near Port Royal Plantation with the Heritage Golf Group on Tuesday night.

The town purchased 102 acres near the gates of Port Royal Plantation for $5 million in 2013 to protect it from development, Mayor John McCann told the Island Packet.

Since the town had no plans for the land, it has leased the property to the golf management group for the last five years so it could handle the maintenance of the former Planter’s Row golf course, McCann said.

The old course is not currently active and several holes are overgrown, according to town council member David Ames. The course was used as a dumping ground for hurricane debris earlier this year.

Heritage Golf Group’s lease of the property ends on Dec. 31, and the town’s public planning committee suggested on Nov. 2 that council deny a lease extension so it could “pull back and take a look at how the Town can begin to use this property for the public and move forward with the visioning.”

That could be in the form of a park, maintained natural space or new grounds for the Concours d’Elegance & Motoring Festival, which takes place in Port Royal Plantation each year.

Port Royal town purchase.jpeg
Staff graphic.

On Tuesday, McCann called for a vote to extend the lease, contrary to the planning committee’s stance. It was met with opposition by Port Royal community members.

“The hope is that it stays as green space,” Risa Prince, a member of the board of the directors at Port Royal Plantation said. “It’s the only large tract of land on the island that has the potential to be a recreational park space, and I would think that the town should get a group together to start seriously studying the future of that land.”

Ames called the lease extension “bad public policy.”

“We on town council should be looking out for the best deal for citizens, not the best deal for a company,” he said.

However, the lease was extended after a 5-1 vote where Ames dissented. There are only six sitting members of council until the special election to fill the Ward 6 representative seat on Feb. 19.

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McCann said Wednesday that it’s unlikely that the golf course will be developed any time soon, because the town has to approve any plans for the land.

“(The vote) gives them a year to put together a plan and gives us a year,” McCann said of the town potentially developing plans for the site.

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