HOAs agree to land deal, but owners object
The HOA at Inlet Point South supports a zoning change that will create two buildable lots on the site of a disused sewer treatment plan. But homeowners say they all object to the change in the middle of their gated community on the south end of Litchfield Beach.
“All of these homes within this small circle that is going to be affected are against this,” said Wade Mullins, an attorney whose family owns property in the development.
County Council this week gave the second of two readings to an amendment to the “planned development” zoning for Inlet Point South that allows two additional lots. The property is owned by the Peninsula at Inlet Point Owners Association, a community of 33 lots that also belong to the Inlet Point South Owners Association, which contains 26 lots.
The Peninsula association received the property from the Litchfield Co. for $5 to build a sewer treatment plant. The Peninsula development on the southern end of Litchfield Beach is in the federal Coastal Barrier Resources System and couldn’t be served by the public utility that receives federal funds.
The Peninsula association got waivers to allow Georgetown County Water and Sewer District, a state special purpose district, to serve the lots. The state Department of Health and Environmental Control approved the sewer plant closure.
The Peninsula association completed a beach renourishment project last year. It estimates the new lots could sell for $1.9 million and wants to use that money for future renourishment.
“They are the only ones that are going to benefit. Everyone else is going to be negatively impacted,” Mullins told the council. “There are a lot of legal ramifications as well.”
The Inlet Point South association sent a letter to the county saying it had no objection to the zoning change. But owners in that development say the association is controlled by Peninsula property owners.
“People have come from Chicago, from Michigan, from Columbia, from North Carolina, from Virginia to be here tonight because this is an important issue to us,” said Joey McCue, who owns property at Inlet Point South.
They told the council that they relied on the planned development zoning when they bought their property. For Randy Beahrs, it was the second switch he has seen since buying property at Inlet Point South 35 years ago.
“The treatment plant is fairly well hidden, although it was a surprise when they put that in 20-some years ago. I was not happy about that,” he said.
He built a house on his oceanfront lot anyway, and spent the first night there this week. He told the council he built it to have views of Clubhouse Creek to the west as well as the ocean to the east.
“Selfishly, I’m just sorry that people are thinking about putting a couple of homes in there to change the atmosphere of the whole place,” Beahrs said.
Ray Tanner bought his house on the creek after vacationing there for years. It is across the street from the former sewer plant.
“We accepted that and we bought that house knowing they were there. I understood from the planned development that they were there and accepted that,” he said.
But the sewer plant is only about 15 feet high. Houses on that site would be elevated to meet flood regulations and would rise about 50 feet, said Tanner, who is the athletics director at the University of South Carolina.
“If somebody like Mr. Tanner buys a home based on a planned development, they ought to be able to rely on that,” Mullins said.
Wesley Peel, an attorney in Mullins’ firm, told the council that the application violated the county’s zoning ordinance, which requires all the property owners in a planned development to apply for an amendment.
“There are plenty of ways this land could be used to benefit the property owners,” Peel said, suggesting green space as the most popular alternative. “All they’re going to do is get cash out of this.”
Russ Hunt, another Inlet Point South owner, questioned whether the Peninsula association would be allowed to create another lot out of the parking lot in front of his house that serves the common area.
He and other Inlet Point South owners said the change also violates restrictive covenants in the development.
Dan Stacy, the attorney representing the Peninsula, said the covenants are outside the County Council’s purview.
Claims that there is no benefit to Inlet Point South “is a little tough for me, because there used to be a sewer plant there and now there’s not,” he told the council.
The Planning Commission voted 4-2 last month to recommend approval of the change.
Holly Richardson, the county planning director, said the zoning ordinance requires all the property owners to agree when creating a planned development, which is a unique zoning district. Any owner in an “affected area” can request an amendment to that district, she said.
The county typically requires a letter from the property owners association in support of changes to a planned development, she added.
“This might make a good case study,” Council Member Bob Anderson said. “I’m kind of confused.”
He also noted that the property that was deeded to the Peninsula was never recorded as a separate plat, so the tax bill went to the Inlet Point South association.
Anderson suggested the council defer a vote “to do a little housekeeping.”
Council Member Stella Mercado confirmed that the recommendation from the Planning Commission was contingent on getting the plat recorded. She also confirmed that both the Inlet Point South and Peninsula associations had sent letters of support before moving to approve the amendment.
The vote was 4-2 with Anderson and Council Member Raymond Newton opposed.