Sea Pines Resort hires Charleston law firm to fight beach club appeal

An artist's rendering of the proposed Sea Pines Beach Club.
An artist's rendering of the proposed Sea Pines Beach Club. Submitted

Sea Pines Resort hopes to quash an appeal by residents contesting its proposed $10-million beach club.

Pratt-Thomas Walker, a Charleston-based law firm hired by the resort, sent a letter dated July 11 asking the Hilton Head Island Board of Zoning Appeals to dismiss residents' objections to the club's plan to provide parking. The board will consider that request July 22.

The new club, featuring about 27,500 square feet of indoor and outdoor space, would replace the current beach club off North Sea Pines Drive.

Last month, Sea Pines resident Sue Ehmke filed an appeal with the town on behalf of herself and 26 residents, saying the plans do not include enough parking spaces for beachgoers. The board will review that appeal Aug. 26.

The appeal said town staff applied the wrong parking rules when in approving the plans.

Town staff classified the club as an "active park," which allowed Sea Pines Resort to submit a plan with 158 parking spaces. That plan was approved June 14 by the town.

The appeal calls for the club to be classified as a "commercial space," requiring at least 200 parking spaces.

In addition to showers, bathrooms and changing rooms, the club would include two dining areas and bars, private event space, and retail and office space. The protesting residents say those uses don't fit an "active park" classification.

The law firm argues that Ehmke, who filed the appeal, lives more than 350 feet from the proposed club -- too far to be affected by it or to qualify as an "aggrieved person." Ehmke should also not be able to represent other people in her appeal, according to the firm.

Resort president Steve Birdwell said he hopes the board will drop the appeal so construction can begin on the club.

"We don't think the appeal was properly filed, and we'd like to get it dismissed as quickly as possible," he said.

Demolition of the current beach club could begin by September, Birdwell said. The new club could be completed by May, he said.

Ehmke says her appeal deserves to be heard by the town board.

"We filed our appeal. We paid our money. There is absolutely nothing that says (the board) can dismiss an appeal," she said.

The town staff says it is not taking a side on the issue and will leave it up to the board to decide, according to Teri Lewis, a Land Management Ordinance official. Lewis said this is the first motion to dismiss she can recall in her 15 years with the town.

Follow reporter Brian Heffernan at twitter.com/IPBG_Brian

Related content:

Sea Pines residents appeal proposed beach club plan, June 28, 2013