Hilton Head leaders approve zoning for 260 apartments at old Christian Academy site

Some Bluffton residents worry football games will be too noisy at new high school

Hilton Head Christian Academy gets their site plan approved by Town of Bluffton for new school campus.
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Hilton Head Christian Academy gets their site plan approved by Town of Bluffton for new school campus.

A rezoning petition to build 260 apartments on Hilton Head Island — revised repeatedly after criticism about density, size and rental rates — has been approved.

Town Council members voted 4-1 Tuesday evening to approve New York-based Spandrel Development Partners’ request for different density at the Hilton Head Christian Academy campus site on Gardner Drive off U.S. 278.

The lone vote against the proposal came from Ward 3 representative David Ames, who said the development’s potential to convert to short-term rentals worries him.

“Would we be approving this today if this were 260 units of short-term rentals?” he asked council members.

The plan for the 13.8-acre site includes three 55-foot-tall apartment buildings and one 45-foot-tall building. The original plan called for 300 apartments.

Hilton Head Christian Academy fully supported the plan for rezoning. It allows the school to sell its property for a higher price before the academy moves to Bluffton in 2020, according to council members.

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The most current plan for the Hilton Head Christian Academy campus by Spandrel Development Partners. A previous application to rezone the site for 300 apartments was withdrawn after two hours of public comment on the issue on April 2. Spandrel Development Partners, released.

In April, the development partners brought the request to council for the first time. After two hours of fiery public comment from nearby homeowners and others on the island who knocked the apartments’ height and rental rates, the firm’s legal counsel withdrew the application.

Removing the request before the council could reject it allowed the developers to avoid the town-mandated waiting period before applying again.

One month later, the firm was back on the island with a new plan for the apartments.

Representatives from Spandrel Development Partners and Hilton Head Christian Academy speak with residents of Old Woodlands on Thursday, May 2. The open house-style meeting was to discuss Spandrel’s impending application for rezoning of the campus to build apartments. Katherine Kokal The Island Packet

What did the council approve?

The final plan had several amendments requested by council to include minimum rental period of six months and a requirement that 5 percent of the units be reserved for workforce housing for 20 years.

That means around 13 units will be priced “below market value” for at least 20 years, according to developer Emmanuel Neuman from Spandrel.

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An aerial view of the Hilton Head Christian Academy on Hilton Head Island. The school will be moving to a Bluffton campus for the 2020 school year. Town of Hilton Head Island, released.

Neuman said a below-market unit may be priced around $850 per month for a studio, and $1,100 for a two-bedroom apartment. The rest of the units, he said, will rent at the original rates of $1,200 to $2,800 per month.

The density of the property will be 19 units per acre, according to the proposal. That’s relatively high in relation to the four surrounding communities, where the average density is 10 to 11 units per acre.

Since the property is within 450 feet of a major road intersecting U.S. 278, the style and placement of the buildings on the property will be subject to a design review board meeting.

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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.