Beaufort News

Land swap eases fundraising strain for Habitat project

A land swap between the Town of Hilton Head Island and a private property owner should make raising money for affordable housing easier, according to Hilton Head Regional Habitat for Humanity.

Town Council in October agreed to donate 14 acres between Leg O Mutton Road and Mathews Drive, where the 19 homes would be built.

As part of the deal, Habitat would pay to build a road and extend utilities along Alex Patterson Drive, a move that would benefit other residents of the area.

No additional homes can be built in the subdivision until a paved road and utilities are installed, according to town staff.

The nonprofit agency faces an August deadline to apply for a federal grant to pay for the construction.

However, some of the land donated for the project was not contiguous. As a result, a large portion of the road and utilities would not serve the Habitat homes, town manager Steve Riley said.

Potential donors and grant providers were concerned or would not allow extending the road and utilities primarily to benefit others, Riley said.

Raising enough money to build the entire road and install utilities all at once -- at an expected cost of more than $1 million -- also was daunting, said Hilton Head Regional Habitat for Humanity CEO Pat Wirth.

"It makes more sense from a grant-writing point of view to build in phases than in its entirety," Wirth said. "This way, we can pay for it as we go."

Faced with an Aug. 19 deadline to apply for the federal grant, Habitat asked the town to fast-track a swap with Henry Driessen, who owns about 3 acres dividing town-owned lots donated to Habitat.

Council on July 5 approved first reading of an ordinance swapping 3.64 acres of nearby town-owned land for Driessen's 3.15 acres.

The exchange consolidates both parties' holdings and eliminates the need to extend the road and utilities beyond the planned Habitat homes.

New road, water, sewer and electric service would still be extended to others in the subdivision in order to serve Habitat homes, Wirth said.

Combining the three contiguous parcels with the already-donated town land also allows construction for a future set of homes, she said.

"We feel very fortunate that this project is moving forward. We are so grateful to the Town Council and people of Hilton Head," Wirth said.

Road construction and utility extention could take about two years, she said.

Council is expected to approve a second reading of the land swap at its next meeting Aug. 2.

Follow reporter Tom Barton at

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  1. Hilton Head land swap with Habitat for Humanity draws complaints: Oct. 19, 2010
  2. Hilton Head to consider giving 4 acres to Habitat for affordable housing: Oct. 17, 2010