The proposal to put a luxury RV park on a portion of the Hilton Head National Golf Course grounds might begin to soften the long-standing controversy between the course’s owners and the adjacent residents fighting area growth from over-development and a glut of traffic on already burdened arteries.
Scratch Golf LLC, which owns the rural-zoned (T2R) 300-acre tract, submitted a proposal in late April to establish a luxury RV resort on 96 acres. It will have approximately 350 rental sites intended to complement the remaining 18 holes of the championship golf course which Scratch Golf built in 1989 and continues to operate.
This plan is a change from initial plans submitted two years ago that included houses and apartments, offices, schools, a hotel, an assisted living facility, shops, an adventure park and a large entertainment venue.
In an April press release announcing the project, Bill Palmer, president of Scratch Golf, said, “The luxury RV resort will serve as a family friendly destination that will strive to enhance the viability of the Hilton Head National Golf Course as well as nearby retailers and restaurants.” He said the luxury RV resort will provide additional revenue to the county.
Bluffton resident Collins Doughtie, who lives near the golf course property, was a vocal leader in opposition to the extensive development plans initially proposed. He remains guarded in his comments on this new plan.
“Everybody has been asking me what I thought, but I have yet to see the plans. I don’t know that it’s any kind of a done deal yet,” Doughtie said. “I wouldn’t be real objectionable to an RV park because some of them are pretty nice, but until I see the plans and what the plans are for adjacent lands I can’t say anything.”
The new proposal fits well within the zoning parameters outlined in the county’s Consolidated Development Code (CDC) and gives the owners the ability to proceed with the project “by right.” The definition of “by right” refers to the right of a property owner to use his or her property in a use that is consistent with the current zoning.
The proposal is currently in the hands of the Beaufort County Planning Department. Planning director Eric Greenway said the staff review team went over the plans and submitted comments for the designer and owners to review.
“Most of them are pointing out a few things that have to be included to meet county ordinances and requirements,” Greenway said. “It’s pretty common for things to be inadvertently omitted from plans on the initial submittal. No one’s trying to get away with anything. Whenever you’re dealing with projects that have a lot of development concerns, the comments are a little more comprehensive. There’s stormwater issues, drainage issues, fire access, emergency access issues. All of that you have to take into consideration.”
Greenway added that there were other things that needed consideration, such as vegetative cover once development occurs, and ensuring the roadways were wide enough for people to navigate.
“If they’re wide enough for those large RVs, then emergency vehicles should have very little trouble getting around the development once it’s built out,” he said.
Maintaining vegetation will be important under the zoning specifications. In the CDC, the T2R designation is designed to preserve the county’s rural character and applies to “sparsely settled lands in an open or cultivated state,” according to the document.
Tom Gardo, media representative for the owners, said the plan would include best management practices as required by the county in regard to stormwater issues. The proposed park also “brings something unique to greater Bluffton that offers long-term economic benefits to the area in an environmentally responsible manner,” he said.
The RV park plans include a number of amenities designed to draw visitors from a diverse demographic, Gardo said, from young families to retired couples. “Our nationally recognized championship golf course – directly adjacent to the RV resort – is, in itself, a rare amenity in the RV world, and we expect it will be a major drawing card.”
Among the plans are nature trails; pools and bath houses; tennis and pickleball courts; golf cart paths, including one that connects to the HHN clubhouse; a large, designated dog park; an upscale amenities building that includes quick-service food and snacks; laundry facilities; an activity space similar to a clubhouse; an outdoor park-like gathering space for potential evening activities; and green spaces throughout the property, plus a large lagoon and wetland preservation areas.
The convenient location adjacent to the Tanger outlets and close to Historic Old Town Bluffton, plus the appeal of Hilton Head’s beaches, are also significant.
Considering that there are luxury RV parks on Hilton Head, Gardo said the Hilton Head National RV park hopes to attract the same clientele.
“We anticipate that most guests will be coming from similar markets that currently travel to Florida and other parts of the Southeast in their RVs – land-locked states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Wisconsin, upper New York State plus Eastern Canada,” said Gardo.
He added that they hope to attract owners with the highest quality luxury RVs on the market.
Once Scratch Golf meets the requirements noted by the county’s review team, Gardo anticipates the project will take approximately 12 months to complete, with an anticipated opening in late 2019 or early 2020.
Gwyneth J. Saunders is a veteran journalist and freelance writer living in Bluffton.