Native island communities hurt by strict regulations, some town officials say

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Native island communities hurt by strict regulations, some town officials say

Published Thursday, August 11, 2011   |  438 Words  |  

A member of a recently formed committee hoping to spur development on Hilton Head Island said regulations intended to slow growth in the 1990s have hindered efforts to develop north-end property for two decades.

What's more, the regulations are now obstacles to reinvestment for businesses as well as residents, according to members of the Land Management Ordinance Rewrite Committee.

Much of the island was largely developed by the time the town was incorporated in 1983, and even more was built by 1987, when it first adopted a land management ordinance.

Many island properties pre-dating the town's formation don't comply with those zoning and development standards, including the Stoney and Chaplin areas of Ward 1.

Recent changes to the town's land management ordinance were designed to make its planning code more flexible but haven't done enough to remove obstacles to developing property in Ward 1, committee member Irvin Campbell said. "We need to design the (land management ordinance) to allow redevelopment of non-conforming buildings," Campbell said.

Campbell said setback and development standards create unrealistic hurdles that inhibit residents from improving their properties.

For example, in the Chaplin area, a 50-foot setback from William Hilton Parkway and a 20-foot setback from wetlands is required. Those leave only a narrow strip to build or expand upon, said Ward 1 Town Councilman Bill Ferguson.

Most of the land in the area is heirs property once owned by former slaves. The property is difficult to subdivide and develop because of its configuration and difficulties in securing clear title to the land, which gets passed through the family for years without a will.

Town requirements that roads, sewer and utilities be extended to property subdivided into more than five lots creates more difficulty, adding expense that has led many low- to middle-income native island families to sell their property and move off the island, Ferguson and Campbell said.

Many other factors, including the down economy, also contribute, committee members acknowledged. But they said the committee might be able to ease some restrictions.

"The land management ordinance can't pay for roads or sewer, but hopefully we can find a path to make it less burdensome," said committee chairman Tom Crews.

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