Hilton Head’s Sea Pines voting on $7.8M in fee hikes for roads, other projects

Hilton Head Island’s Sea Pines community is in the final day of voting on an infrastructure referendum that would increase Sea Pines owner assessments, charging owners more money for stormwater, landscape and traffic projects in the gated community on the south end.

So far, the Charleston-based independent ballot counter has received 3,594 of the 5,242 eligible ballots, according to Bret Martin, president of Sea Pines Community Services Associates — the governing board that sponsored the ballot issue.

The deadline for Sea Pines voters to postmark ballots is June 21, 2019. Seventy-five percent of ballots cast must be in favor for it to pass.

Approving the referendum would increase assessments for property owners in the community between $90 and $150 each year for three years, starting in 2020. The increase of $450 over three years for a residential property owner would establish a new baseline assessment from the community, according to Amanda Jones, director of communications for CSA.

Currently, a residential property owner on an improved lot in Sea Pines is assessed at around $1,076 from CSA. Under the language in the proposal, after three years of phasing in the increased fees, the $450 annual assessment increase would become permanent.

The proposal would also raise the contribution by Sea Pines Resort from 0.5 percent to 0.75 percent, according to the referendum.

Opponents of the referendum say property owners will bear the brunt of the assessment increases because their fees would climb by 50 percent to fund 95 percent of the projects.

On the other hand, commercial entities’ assessments will rise by 158 percent, but the total commercial contribution will be 0.7 percent, according to CSA.

Those who support it — including CSA, the property owners’ association and Town Council representative for Sea Pines Tom Lennox — say the referendum would fund projects that, if not completed, would jeopardize property values and lifestyles in Sea Pines, according to a 32-page brochure released by CSA.

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Voters have shown concern over the lobbying efforts used by CSA, including phone calls from community phone lists and mailers sent directly to homes encouraging a “yes” vote.

“They are using every means at their disposal to force their opinion on unsuspecting residential property owners,” according to a statement from a group that opposes the referendum, Alliance for Sea Pines Future.

But Martin said the CSA board of directors unanimously voted to support the referendum, so using CSA resources to encourage its passage is “the purpose of CSA,” and that property owners voluntarily give their information to the entity.

Asked if that is unfair to opposing groups without lists of voter information, he said “CSA has done the work to get (that information) and the others have not.”

He added that voters can request to be removed from call and email lists about the referendum.

How to vote

Only property owners in Sea Pines can vote in the election.

All who received ballots must have them postmarked by June 21 to:

Elliot Davis

ATTN: Brandon Renaud

100 Calhoun Street, Suite 300

Charleston, SC 29401

Ballots do not need to be notarized, according to referendum voting materials.

The vote counts will likely not be available until the end of next week, Martin said, because the ballots are being returned by mail.

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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.