Politics & Government

Developer withdraws plans for 300 apartments on Hilton Head Christian site after outcry

The legal counsel who represents a Charleston-based developer looking to build 300 apartments on the Hilton Head Christian Academy site withdrew the application on Tuesday after two hours of fiery public comment during a Hilton Head Town Council meeting.

Nearly every council member had verbally announced they would vote no on the application before attorney for Spandrel Development Partners Walter Nester approached the council to withdraw the application.

Withdrawing applications before they’re voted down allows the developer flexibility if the firm wants to reapply for rezoning in the future, Nester told The Island Packet last month in regard to another application.

The apartment project came under fire by the neighboring Old Woodlands neighborhood and the island at large for the high density, 55-foot “high-rise” style of the buildings and rent that goes against what the town’s housing consultant outlined as affordable for the workforce.

Katherine Kokal The Island Packet

Spandrel offered compromises after council members first heard the application last month. Those concessions were recognized by members of the public on Tuesday evening, when some said they felt better about the proposal.

But the apartment complex application hinted at a larger issue for some council members.

“Many will argue that we’re at a tipping point,” council member Bill Harkins said of housing and development on the island. “Many came here for the Charles Fraser vision and have seen erosion of that vision. The question that is before us is: Have we gone too far? Can it be stopped?”

Harkins and council members David Ames and Glenn Stanford explicitly said they’d vote against the application to up-zone the property for the apartment complex.

“Council has to decide what is in the best interest of citizens and negotiate terms, not just in the narrow interest of the developer or the land owner,” Ames said. “Residents win when council members take the long view. (The application would be) an urban solution in a non-urban area.”

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An aerial view of the Hilton Head Christian Academy on Hilton Head Island. The school will be moving to a Bluffton campus for the 2020 school year. Town of Hilton Head Island, released.
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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.