Politics & Government

Hilton Head go-kart debate hit the brakes last week. Now, it’s back on the agenda

Families visiting Hilton Head Island may be able to enjoy go-karts. These go-karts may not represent the exact model proposed for Hilton Head.
Families visiting Hilton Head Island may be able to enjoy go-karts. These go-karts may not represent the exact model proposed for Hilton Head. released

Hilton Head may yet get an outdoor electric go-kart track after supporters packed a town planning commission meeting on Wednesday.

Discussion of the track plan, proposed by Roger Freedman, owner of Broad Creek Marina, was initially tabled Jan. 28 by the Land Management Ordinance Committee. It will be back on the LMO committee’s agenda at its March meeting after 13 people turned out to support the plan.

“Anything that we can do to get kids’ faces out of smart phones and iPads is a good thing,” Frank Babel, chairman of the Bicycle Advisory Committee, told the planning commission.

Island resident Kevin Thompson said he has “two young boys who would enjoy it very much, and it’s a great attraction for tourists as well.”

Freedman applied to build a 750- to 800-foot outdoor electric go-kart track in August 2018, The Island Packet previously reported.

After several rounds of feedback, town staff said the land management ordinance would have to be amended to allow the outdoor facility. Currently, the town’s LMO allows go-kart tracks indoors.

Peter Kristian, chairman of the LMO committee, said those who spoke against the proposal at the Jan. 28 meeting cited excessive noise from the track, cheering crowds, environmental concerns and an inconsistency with Hilton Head’s “brand.”

“I was open to the concept but I could see I was outnumbered and there wasn’t community support,” Kristian said of the decision to table discussion.

Not everyone at Wednesday’s meeting backed the plan.

Chip Munday, the general manager of Indigo Run, suggested the track be indoors in an unused commercial space. That approaach, he said, would address noise levels and be consistent with LMO rules.

“If we keep allowing (exceptions) then the LMO has no integrity,” Munday said. “There are many different ideas for attractions on the island that are within the LMO.”

But moving the activities indoors defeats the purpose, architect Tom Crews said.

“This speaks to long history (on Hilton Head) of pursuing outdoor activities, and I think younger folks are looking for a lot of things to do,” Crews said. “Allowing the go-karts supports that.”

Commission member Leslie McGowan pointed out that amending the rules on the go-kart proposal would mean other areas of the island could follow suit with similar businesses.

“It’s not site-specific, (and) we’re not talking about just one owner here. We’re talking about the entire zoning district,” she said.

What’s next?

A March meeting date has not been set, Kristian said.

After the LMO committee makes a recommendation, it would move back to the planning commission. If the commission approved the rule change, the proposal would head to Hilton Head Town Council for a vote.

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.