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Surfers will have to wait even longer for better access to a popular surf spot if Hilton Head Island follows a recommendation to delay the construction of its first water sports beach park.'
Deputy town manager Chuck Hoelle said he will recommend that the town hold off on the Collier Beach Park project until after its next beach renourishment, scheduled to be completed at the earliest in November 2006 and at the latest in June 2007.'
The park plans include about 30 parking spaces, a restroom facility and a crabbing dock and will be designated for surfers, kayakers and anglers. Swimming will be discouraged at the site, Hoelle said.'
Work on the park began in 2002 but has been tied up in litigation with residents of the Singleton Place Homeowners Association. While awaiting the outcome of the court cases, the project has been on hold for so long that it made sense to wait until after the renourishment project, Hoelle said.'
"We would tear it up (anyway)," he said. '
About $300,000 is currently included in next year's budget plan for the Collier park. Hoelle will bring the recommendation to delay the project before Town Council at a budget workshop May 3. Town Council will have final say on whether to delay the construction.'
But the future of the park also is contingent on a suit the home-owners association has filed against the town, saying the park would overburden traffic on Collier Beach Road, which the association owns. The case is in the discovery phase right now, and town attorney Gregg Alford said he hoped the case would be decided within a year.'
The town contends that public records show plans for a water sports park at the site even before the subdivision was built, Alford said. '
"They would prefer to have us leave it in a natural state so they can have their own beach park," Alford said. "We always had a plan to build a park before they got the land."'
The town has a 30-foot-wide easement for access through the community to the planned park. Last July, a Beaufort County judge ruled against the Singleton Place Homeowners Association, which contended the road that the town intends to use as the entryway to the park would be too narrow. The town normally requires such roads to be 40 feet wide. But the town's Board of Zoning Appeals decided in '
August 2002 to allow the town to use the road as an access to the park.'
The association plans a traffic study this summer to show how the park would affect the subdivision -- something they contend the town never did, said Dean Laurich, a property owner and a plaintiff in the case.'
Town Council has said it plans to restrict access to the parking area only to those with a special pass for the park.'
If the court denies the association's case and the town can start work, the project will take four to five months to complete once it begins, Hoelle said.'
The park, which has been planned since at least 1997, has been a long-sought amenity of the island's surfing community, Hoelle said.'
The area provides better break than other parts of the island and is a popular spot for surfers, but there is not a direct public access point to the beach near the Folly. The beach there is listed on several surfing Web sites as one of the only places to catch waves on the island.'
John Tolly, owner of Sunny Daze Surf Factory, said that while surfers have been waiting on the park for a long time, he's concerned that they will be limited to a small stretch of the beach if the park finally opens. '
He said the park will provide something that surfers have been in need of: more parking.'
"I do want the water sports park," Tolly said, "but I'm afraid that when the town gives that to us, they're going to hold us to a certain area. ... We want to protect our space."