December 8, 2023

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Board denies controversial strategy to put luxurious ‘ecotourism’ vacation resort on SC barrier island | Enterprise

Just after hearing resounding calls from citizens to reject a proposed vacation resort on an uninhabited Lowcountry barrier island, a Beaufort County zoning board voted unanimously Thursday evening to deny the ask for.

The luxury vacation resort strategy was proposed as an ecotourism use on Bay Point Island, which is considered an critical habitat for shorebirds and sea turtles. Spot was a key consideration in the board’s rejection. 

“This is a great notion,” Zoning Board of Appeals vice chair Kevin Mack reported just just before a vote was taken Thursday. “But I just never feel it is appropriate to the surrounding area. I believe it is likely to be far more damage to the surroundings.”

South Carolina politicians including Republican Gov. Henry McMaster and U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham, D-S.C., wrote to the board forward of their vote, asking that they deny the Bay Level software. 

Another call to reject luxury 'ecoresort' plan for SC barrier island comes as review nears

People letters had been recent — submitted past month by McMaster and final 7 days by Cunningham — but the controversy bordering the undertaking goes back again many years when a resort strategy was initial proposed for Bay Position, together with a ask for for the island to be annexed by Hilton Head. 

The island’s principal owner, European investor Philippe Cahen, made a decision to maintain again on that strategy. A various proposal, which is centered on an ecotourism use for the barrier island, started off to decide on up steam, and draw criticism from the nearby community, final slide. 

An on the net petition commenced by the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition ahead of a general public meeting held about the resort programs very last Oct has circulated generally on social media for almost a year. Prior to Thursday’s assembly, it experienced grown to much more than 30,600 signatures. 

Given that Bay Position is zoned as a normal maintain, tourist lodging can only be designed there if they are aspect of a task that is regarded ecotourism.

Ecotourism, according to the definition utilized by Beaufort County, is “responsible travel to organic locations that conserves the ecosystem, sustains the nicely-staying of the neighborhood persons, and will involve interpretation and education and learning.”

Resort designs, which island proprietors have explained would charge about $100 million to execute, involve 50 villas as properly as wellness centers, dining places, a cooking school, an earth lab and a solar farm to assist electric power the facility. 

IHG-owned 6 Senses was the meant operator for the resort. The Thailand-dependent firm operates higher-conclusion getaways that can go for about $1,000 a evening. The Bay Place job would have been 6 Senses’ 1st resort in the U.S. 

Tom Taylor, a Hilton Head Island-based lawyer who signifies the entrepreneurs of Bay Place, released the task at Thursday’s hearing as a “fully self-contained ecotourism wellness retreat.” 

The conference was hosted in a gymnasium in Beaufort’s Burton Wells Recreation Centre exactly where attendees wearing facial area masks sat in folding chairs spaced broadly apart. Additional than a dozen speakers delivered at situations impassioned reviews in opposition to allowing the vacation resort options.

Apart from the candidates, just one speaker, who explained he has been employed by Bay Position Island LLC for the final 5 months, spoke in favor. 

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Taylor and other representatives for the improvement workforce emphasized facets of the prepare that they explained pointed to its low effects on the natural environment, like the reality that no paved roads or parking plenty would be included. 

But the assembly attendees who spoke, like reps from regional groups that have created community statements opposing letting a vacation resort at Bay Issue, like the South Carolina Environmental Regulation Undertaking and the Beaufort County Open Land Believe in, produced scenarios in opposition to the resort ideas. 

Marquetta Goodwine, who goes by Queen Quet, chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation, brought a printed duplicate of the tens of 1000’s of names signed to the on line petition, which describes how the waters about Bay Level have been utilised as a fishing floor for Gullah-Geechee men and women for generations. 

She and some others have argued considering that late very last calendar year that placing a 50-unit vacation resort on Bay Place would jeopardize their use of the bordering waters. 

Numerous of the speakers expressed normal distrust of the way the improvement had been offered to the zoning board and to the community as an environmentally aware venture. 

Contested SC eco-resort plan, flagged as 'greenwashing,' up for key decision soon

“Just how stupid do you assume we are listed here in Beaufort County?” stated a single female, who was sporting a sea turtle t-shirt. 

Beaufort County employees had advised approval for the Bay Position proposal, but only less than sure ailments, which concerned placing the remaining acres of high floor on the island that aren’t component of the 50-acre proposed vacation resort parcel into a conservation easement that wouldn’t allow even more improvement, namely single-relatives properties that could be created on the 40 remaining loads on Bay Position. 

“Yes, they have fulfilled the bare minimum necessities for ecotourism but there is a large amount of land out there left that can have anything developed on it,” Eric Greenway, county group development director, cautioned the zoning board. 

The island’s ownership opposed that component of the circumstances and as a substitute presented to put 15 of the subdivided lots on the island into a conservation easement, leaving 25 tons on Bay Position for development. 

Taylor, who characterised the phrases set by Greenway an an “overreach,” informed the board that they would desire to acknowledge these needs over what turned out to be the stop end result: a entire denial of the application. 

Resort plan for SC barrier island advances with county now saying it's 'ecotourism'

In his motion to deny the software, zoning board member Mark McGinnis cited many motives, which include that the proposal was “inconsistent” with the county’s extensive strategy, “incompatible” with bordering land and not made to minimize impacts on normal wildlife or area crisis providers. 

Problems had been also elevated in the course of the hearing about how the county defines ecotourism.

Greenway, who sales opportunities the team of county employees that decided the job capable as ecotourism and could be authorized to progress to the zoning board, advised board members he felt their definition as published is “rather weak.” 

This is a establishing tale. Remember to check back again for updates.