June 20, 2008

Island Panels Refine Comprehensive Guidelines

By Tim Donnelly, The Island Packet, Hilton Head Island, S.C.

Jun. 20--Recipe for the next 10 years of Hilton Head Island: Take 2 cups of the distinctive island brand, mix with a heaping helping of new environmental initiatives and cook over the flame of Charles Fraser's legacy.

Garnish with some new coats of paint on aging buildings, upscale shopping and entertainment options and serve with a view of pristine beaches.

The formula isn't perfected yet, but it's one that top Hilton Head officials continued crafting this week as they worked on an update to the Comprehensive Plan, the document that will serve as the guiding set of principles for the next decade.

As the town passes its 25th anniversary this summer, the growth pangs are over. Now the challenge is dealing with a fully-formed community.

"The island has gone through a growth phase, and now is in its maturity phase," said Planning Commission member Terence Ennis.

Town Council and Planning Commission members met in a rare joint session Wednesday to refine the key issues that should be looked at in the plan. The process has been in the works for about a year already and won't be finished until the end of 2009, but this week's meeting helped establish some broad visions and areas of focus.

One of the main points the officials focused on was guarding against an erosion of the vision of Charles Fraser, the Sea Pines founder who set the tone for the environmentally sensitive development of modern Hilton Head. The topics came from discussions with town officials, staff members and other interested people, such as members of the business community.

"(They were) saying there was a vote of confidence in what we're doing, but let's not lose it," Ennis said.

One of the big concerns as the town moves forward with the plan is the serious need to encourage redevelopment to make sure aging buildings and infrastructure don't deteriorate to the point that tourists won't want to come to the island.

Other ideas discussed included: looking at a ferry transit system, recycling initiatives, strengthening the sense of community and promoting eco-friendly development. Some surveyed even suggested helping to improve interconnectivity by removing the gates on private communities. The idea was met with loud laughter at the meeting.


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Copyright (c) 2008, The Island Packet, Hilton Head Island, S.C.

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