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Hilton Head Island bike rental companies are pumping up for a war with Sea Pines, claiming a planned fee increase by the gated community is unfair and illegal.
Starting Wednesday, the price for decals for the vehicles that deliver and pick up bikes rented by Sea Pines tourists is scheduled to increase sharply for bike rental companies located outside of Sea Pines. Companies with one or two vehicles must pay $1,500 for a decal, and those with three or more vehicles must $2,500.
Bike rental companies say they paid $175 per vehicle last year.
"It's unfair," said James Bradford, owner of The Bike Doctor, who has hired an attorney to fight the fee increase. "If they were raising it for everybody, it would be OK, and I would see it as being treated equally. But we're being singled out. And we're servicing the same people in Sea Pines as the cleaning companies, the pool companies, the pizza delivery guys."
Sea Pines leaders did not respond to questions from The Island Packet on whether bike rental companies are the only ones paying higher fees for decals and why the decision to increase the fee was made.
Bradford and owners of other bike rental companies outside of Sea Pines say they'll likely have to raise their rental rates by $1 to $2 per bike to offset the higher cost of the decals.
"The visitors of Sea Pines would be the ones who have to bear the brunt of it," said Stanton Allaben, co-owner of Palmetto Bikes, who hopes Sea Pines residents and visitors will balk at the fee increase and work to stop its implementation. "Bicycling has become such a popular activity for visitors to the island. It's good for the economy. It's good for everyone."
The increase may not be a done deal.
Sea Pines' Community Services Associates, which maintains the common property and roads within the community, is considering the input from the bike companies and others. It has scheduled a meeting Thursday to discuss the issue.
"After that meeting, we will update the bike companies regarding any decisions we make," wrote Cary Kelley, CSA executive vice president, in an email to The Island Packet.
The input CSA is considering includes a letter from attorney Curtis Coltrane, who represents Bradford.
Coltrane cites state law about unfair trade practices to make a case that the increase is illegal.
His letter reads, in part: "The only reasonable conclusion that one can reach about this proposed action is that Community Services Associates, Inc., has an ulterior motive and is attempting to utilize its authority to charge the gate fee in a manner that will be detrimental to the business of the bicycle rental concerns that serve customers within Sea Pines Resort."