Beaufort News

Bay Point Island annexation first pitched to Port Royal

The town of Port Royal was first pitched the idea of annexing Bay Point Island for use as a five-star resort, a town councilman said Tuesday.

Talks eventually ended after town officials expressed reservations, Town Councilman Jerry Ashmore said.

Hilton Head Island is now considering annexing the 347-acre island, owned by European investor Philippe Cahen. An “eco-resort” by Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas, based in Bangkok, Thailand, is planned for the property, Hilton Head Mayor David Bennett said this week.

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Ashmore said Tuesday that council discussed the annexation — dubbed Project S — several times this year in closed-door sessions beginning in March. Bay Point representatives wanted a feel for the town’s support of the project, Ashmore said.

But council members had reservations that included including growth boundaries, the makeup of the barrier island and what would happen if the project failed, Ashmore said.

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Town manager Van Willis confirmed Tuesday the town had been courted about annexing the island. The estimated $1.5 million to $2 million in additional annual revenue from the development would have gone a long way in a town with about a $5.5 million budget, he acknowledged.

But town council was concerned about infrastructure and maintenance if the development failed, he said.

Port Royal was sued by conservationists in 2006 after a planned annexation and zoning of property near the Chechessee River, eventually annexing the property following a settlement. The town has also annexed the Lemon Island Marina property and Rose Island south of the Broad River.

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Bay Point doesn’t fit within the boundaries Port Royal has since agreed to under a northern Beaufort County growth plan, Willis said, though the annexation is technically legal under line-of-sight rules.

“We had zero concerns about the legitimacy of the parties involved; they are substantial and real,” Willis said. “... Considering the size of the town and our resources, it just wasn’t a good fit for us.”

Stephen Fastenau: 843-706-8182, @IPBG_Stephen