Issue: Harbour Town Pool and Tennis

The upcoming referendum that would approve expansion of the Harbour Town Inn by 150% will result in changes to the entire Harbour Town community.  A key concern of owners – both in the immediate Harbour Town area and throughout Sea Pines Plantation – is the displacement and/or elimination of amenities including the pool and tennis courts. All Sea Pines owners have freely enjoyed these amenities since the plantation was first developed over forty years ago. The original master plan clearly intended for these to be available in perpetuity for the joint enjoyment of everyone in the plantation.

 

 

Most owners are unaware these amenities are owned by Sea Pines Resort.  Through an agreement with CSA whereby CSA provides an annual contribution to the Resort for use and maintenance, property owners have obtained unrestricted access.  This arrangement has worked well for all parties – the Resort, CSA, property owners and guests.  The Resort needed this pool for their guests and property owners through a miniscule fraction of their CSA dues (about $6/year) have subsidized the cost of maintenance in return for access privileges.

 

But the current offer by the Resort and  the current term sheet endorsed by ASPPPO/CSA would forever eliminate this mutual benefit equation. The fundamental and foundational assumption of owners and purchasers in the plantation of virtually free access to pool and tennis courts will no longer exist. Owners selling or renting properties would no longer be able to represent these amenities as components of their properties’ value. These changes will not increase property values of the hundreds if not thousands of villa and homeowners without any other comparable or practical alternatives.

 

Approval of the Inn expansion by owners will grant the Resort an asset of immense value.  It is fair and reasonable for owners to expect tangible compensation –including replacement of existing amenities – as a small component of an overall agreement.    

 
Solutions

 

Community parks and recreation facilities are a requirement of any upscale and desirable town or neighborhood.  They add value and enjoyment to everyone.  It is entirely appropriate for CSA to own and operate amenities that include a swimming pool and tennis courts for the benefit of the entire Sea Pines community. Such ownership would simply maintain an expectation that has existed since the beginning of Sea Pines. The recent loss of the Plantation Club pool as a result of Resort enhancements there make the retention of a pool in Harbour Town even more essential.

 

Understandably, the Resort has indicated they no longer wish to be in the business of providing tennis and pool facilities for private property owners. However, in return for the immense value the Resort will receive by owner’s approval of the Inn expansion, owners – and CSA – should insist that an agreement with the Resort include replacement of the pool and access to tennis courts.

 

The Resort’s offer of a limited number of paid memberships to Resort facilities at an unspecified price should be no reassurance. The related or additional argument by the Resort that these amenities would continue for owners using the Resort for management of their properties is also inadequate. Owners should be wary of these “solutions” for the following reasons:  

  • It is improbable that the number of memberships offered by the Resort would be adequate for demand throughout Sea Pines.
  • Most owners would incur substantial additional costs.  Private use by owners is currently free. A requirement that rental properties be managed by the Resort is an unfair and likely very costly option.  Sea Pines property management is excellent in providing a premium guest experience and fine property care and maintenance.  But from a financial perspective Resort management does not necessarily result in the best financial returns.  It is not uncommon for rental properties to achieve a 300% greater net return when using alternative management companies that also provide excellent guest experience and property maintenance.
  • Unless the location of the replacement facilities are in the immediate Harbour Town area, they will not be of comparable utility or value.
  • Any agreement can be changed or eliminated.  A solution must be permanent and survive any future change of management priority/policy or ownership.

 

There are multiple ways all interests can be accommodated.  The simplest resolution is unrestricted access to the new facilities planned by the Resort for their guests.  But reasonably they may prefer to reserve these amenities only for their guests.  Perhaps a better alternative is inclusion in the Harbour Town master plan of a dedicated pool and tennis courts for all owners in Sea Pines Plantation for the following reasons: The Resort is the only entity that owns sufficient real estate, and the incremental cost of constructing these facilities is inconsequential to the Resort in the context of a $100 million investment that will result in many tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in added value and increased revenues in perpetuity.

 

Under a CSA ownership scenario, management and control would be vested permanently with property owners and the entire Sea Pines community. These would complement and contribute to the existing inventory of amenities that make Sea Pines a special place.  CSA would be free to implement appropriate fees for owners and guests to offset operating costs and supplement the amount they already allocate for this purpose.   If owners approve an expansion of the hotel they should be no worse off. The addition of 90 rooms is permanent.  The resolution of the pool and tennis access must be permanent also.