Laser maker seeks bigger building on Hilton Head

The owners of a Hilton Head Island laser manufacturer say they've outgrown their office and need plans approved for a new office so they can move.

MegaWatt Lasers Inc. is asking the town's Board of Zoning Appeals for a special zoning exception to operate at 89 Arrow Road.

Company president Scott Hamlin said the business has been at 18 Hunter Road for nine years and needs more space for assembly and engineers because of rising demand for new medical technology.

"A lot of our product is in the medical business, and that is very strong right now," he said.

The company has seven employees. It added three engineers in the past six months and expects to hire more, Hamlin said.

The 4,200-square-foot, vacant, bank-owned building on Arrow Road is about three-times the size of the company's current location.

MegaWatt Lasers provides consulting, research and development, and manufacturing for military, medical and industrial applications. It produces small laser components, such as pump chambers used in lithotripsy -- a medical procedure that uses high-energy shock waves to break up kidney and urinary tract stones. It also produces transmitters for military range-finders.

Hamlin said the new building would be used mainly for assembly and engineering. Parts are made elsewhere in the state.

"MegaWatt Lasers is not and will not be hazardous, detrimental or disturbing to present surrounding land uses due to noise, glare, smoke, dust, odor, fumes, water pollution or general nuisance," Hamlin wrote in a letter to the town.

The new location is near a cabinet store, bakery and restaurant, self-storage facility, and furniture store.

"I'll take this over a bar or nightclub any day. It sounds like a reputable business," said Signe Gardo, owner of Signe's Heaven Bound Bakery and Cafe at 93 Arrow Road.

Hamlin said he intends to keep the operation unobtrusive.

"We want to be low-key. ... We don't want to change the character of the island," he said.

A business similar to MegaWatt Lasers, Vetronix Research Corp. -- which designs and manufactures electronics for military vehicles, heavy equipment and aviation -- is nearby at 28 Palmetto Park Road.

Town staff has recommended approval of MegaWatt Laser's request. It would encourage redevelopment and preserve the character of the district, senior planner Anne Cyran wrote.

The Board of Zoning Appeals is scheduled to consider the request at 2:30 p.m. Monday at Town Hall.