Getting to Hilton Head Island’s future may not require a gate pass.
That’s what a group of millennials — young professionals — said.
They’re tired of the gated communities that dominate Hilton Head. They said they don’t like getting frisked down by armed guards to go see a friend.
They told this to consultant Steven Ames from Oregon. He helps communities build strategic visions for their future and set measurable goals to get there.
He was on the island for a few days this week, hired by the Town of Hilton Head Island. He talked to a lot of groups and individuals about Hilton Head. Between meetings Thursday he took a 30-minute flyover with local developer, planner and pilot David Ames, no relation.
Today, Steven Ames is to make recommendations to a Hilton Head Town Council committee on whether and how the town could pursue the vision thing yet again. He’s starting by reviewing three previous stabs at it.
The literal gates may never come down. After all, they work. They’ve helped sell a lot of property, turning around Beaufort County’s economy over the past half century.
But in the vision process, gates are speed bumps. And they’re a powerful symbol.
As the Rev. John M. Miller told Hilton Head many years ago: “Gated community is an oxymoron.”
Millennials are the demographic coveted by cities across America. But there were precious few of them, if any, at a Town Hall meeting with the visioning guy Thursday evening.
Still, it was clear that Hilton Head would be a major project for a community builder, thanks to the so-called “plantations.”
I’m pretty fat, dumb and happy inside that gate.
A 70-year-old Hilton Head Island resident
“I’m pretty fat, dumb and happy inside that gate,” said a man in his early 70s, a longtimer as a full-time islander since 2000.
But he said that changed when word got out that a University of South Carolina Beaufort campus would be tucked in the woods on a small tract on a small street near his gate.
His world suddenly expanded. He realized he was part of a larger web. And then he realized he needed to look even farther than a quarter of a mile outside the gate. He said this would make a communitywide vision hard.
Town Council member Lee Edwards told more than 50 people who came to envision a vision that he hears the gate theme all the time.
He said when local issues come up, “People will say, ‘What do I care? It doesn’t affect me.’ ”
Steven Ames encounters similar issues in other towns, but it’s more likely to be a neighborhood, ethnic or geographic separation.
“We’re all so divided,” another man said.
Taking down the gates is on no one’s list of recommendations.
But it’s interesting to hear people other than native islanders and John Miller say out loud and in public that the worldview gates represent must come down.
How can you plan for a better community if most people are retired and happy with what they see in their own private neighborhoods?
It doesn’t sound like a huge problem to have.
But the man who helps communities refine themselves said successful community visioning requires people to talk to people who do not look like they do.