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Quality Vetting Drives Best Decisions

May 2017Mayor David Bennett as seen in The Hilton Head Sun

Heard about Bay Point Island? It's a beautiful 345-acre barrier island off the coast of Hilton Head Island, somewhat visible from Port Royal and Hilton Head Plantations. Last year, its owner submitted an annexation application to the Town of Hilton Head Island in the hopes of developing an eco-sensitive, state of the art, 5-star resort and spa, with the coveted Hilton Head Island address. (Yes, the same one used nearly all the way out to I-95 for businesses and developments which are not annexed into Hilton Head Island.) The future of Bay Point Island continues to rightfully attract attention and generate conversation. But what's most important is the precept applicable to our community here: the quality of a product or decision will rarely exceed the quality of the process used to produce it. Hilton Head Island must utilize high quality processes to examine not only Bay Point Island, but any opportunities presented to it.

Should Bay Point be annexed into Hilton Head Island, remain in unincorporated Beaufort County, or annexed into yet another nearby municipality? Should it stay undeveloped or be developed? If developed, should it become a 5-star resort with international visitors, or the 49 homes on septic which are already approved, or something else entirely? Whatever occurs must be in the best interests of Hilton Head Island and Beaufort County, now and into the future. Islanders should expect that the appropriate processes and people to make these types of determinations will be employed. Comprehensive vetting is a goal worth championing, and it began  last year with the explicit "consideration of a Resolution of the Town Council for the Town of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, to accept a petition for annexation filed by Bay Point Island, LLC for real property generally known as Bay Point Island, and authorizing the Town Manager and the Town Attorney to take the necessary steps to process the petition under acceptable terms and conditions." Petition. Process.

A 5-star resort on Hilton Head Island is not a new idea. Sea Pines Resort is working diligently to obtain that designation, and we will celebrate when they do! The former Hilton Head Island EDC studied the attractiveness of the Island for a 5-star product. Surely Palmetto Bluff’s resounding success is confirmation that the idea has merit.

Are secret meetings and conflicts of interest factors here? The Town staff, Councilors and Mayor meet frequently and routinely about potential opportunities with owners and developers. It's part of our jobs. Sometimes, as in this case, confidentiality agreements exist. And yes, I was a customer of one of the same businesses that the developer now uses. That doesn't make me an affiliate or an associate of that vendor or the developer. There exists no financial identity of interest, nor will I in any way benefit any more than any other Islander if the development is either done, or not done. In other words, I am no more affiliated or associated with any member of the development team, including Tom Gardo, than I am with my landscaper, pest control company, or local grocery store. Period.

Hilton Head Island deserves the opportunity to assess sophisticated and complex ideas and arrive at sound conclusions. The Six Senses concept merits responsible examination, especially if it will promote our premier standing as an environmentally sound and desirable destination. But, until we complete the process, we just won't know.