Beaufort County Decides to Condemn Daufuskie Island SC Wharf

Beaufort County Council’s vote to condemn the wharf on Daufuskie Island and preserve the ferry service has delayed a developer’s plans to buy the derelict Melrose Resort.

With no connecting bridge or causeway, taking the state-funded Daufuskie Island Ferry is the only way to get in and out of the island. To ensure access to the island, the council voted to condemn the wharf and make it public.

The council has identified two locations with the intention of making them permanent public embarkations for the Daufuskie Island Ferry. One is located near Cross Island Boat Landing on Hilton Head and the other is the dock at Melrose Landing on Daufuskie. At the county council meeting on June 27, the council approved a motion to condemn the two places, which would put them in the public domain.

This is where the trouble started.

Regenerative developer Whitestone Resources began work last fall preparing to sell the complex to its parent company, Whitestone Holdings LLC. The purchase was due to close on June 30, but the county’s motion to condemn the dock days earlier caused a delay.

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The Melrose Dock on Daufuskie Island. Submitted

Without the wharf, it would be difficult to sell the station, according to Whitestone.

“You can imagine the most vital property involved with the station is this connection on this island,” said Tim Pritcher, president of Whitestone Resources.

At the July 11 council meeting, the council voted to postpone the second reading after islanders showed up to express their concerns over the sentencing. The council hopes to find a solution that can satisfy all parties.

“The county’s current focus is to provide Beaufort County citizens and visitors with transportation to Daufuskie Island now and in the future,” Beaufort County spokesman Chris Ophardt said in a statement. communicated. “The county recognizes that transportation is not the only concern of Daufuskie Island residents, and it will continue to look after other desirable services. The county will continue to seek input from Daufuskie Island residents and local businesses throughout the process.

Improving parking and adding restrooms and covered areas for guests waiting for the ferry are things the county hopes to do with public ownership of the wharf. Improving parking and adding bathrooms are also part of Whitestone’s plans for the wharf. While they don’t have specific plans for a covered dock, Whitestone officials are planning to renovate the dock, so it’s a possibility, Pritcher said.

The Melrose Resort, which was developed in the 1980s, lay abandoned on Daufuskie Island for more than a decade after private owners ran into financial trouble. Today about 400 people live on Daufuskie.

An island divided

For businesses that operate out of Melrose Marina, Whitestone’s eventual management of the marina comes with some concerns.

Businesses fear Whitestone will dramatically increase the price it charges businesses for access to the dock, according to Pat McClain, owner of Daufuskie Life, a golf cart rental company. Businesses that operate out of the marina rent the space they use and rely on the ferry to bring customers and employees to the island.

Originally the marina space was leased by Haig Point, but the agreements were not documented.

Leases offered by Whitestone would be more expensive, but that’s because they would be at market rates, Pritcher said.

“I’m not surprised that a business owner doesn’t want to pay more than they’ve had to pay in the past, for any lease, and each of them has to make their own decision,” Pritcher said.

Pritcher wouldn’t discuss the numbers, saying rates are still being negotiated.

The abandoned Melrose Inn.

Having businesses pay the market rate is critical to the marina’s long-term success, Pritcher said.

Although he never received a formal offer, McCain said Whitestone’s asking rate for rent was more than 10 times his current rate. McClain said he “could live with it” he would have to raise his prices to make up for the lost revenue.

Business owners said current rental rates are around $300 to $500 per month.

Eventually, Whitestone began offering revenue sharing as an alternative.

Another business owner who asked to remain anonymous told Island Packet the revenue share rate was between 20% and 30% of his monthly revenue. Businesses that make more money would pay more money.

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Whitestone’s plan for the marina

Another concern McClain had with Whitestone’s potential lease is that it’s monthly. McClain believes this would provide less security than an annual lease.

“If you’re on a month-to-month contract, they can raise your rate to whatever they want,” McClain said.

Not everyone on Daufuskie is unhappy. According to Bill Workheiser, president of the Melrose Cottage Association, the majority of people living in the Melrose Resort area support Whitestone and the purchase of the resort.

“I don’t think it’s a problem for the developer and development – it should happen,” Werkheiser said. “It’s a problem, you know, a deal being worked out not to pull out something that’s so vital to the operation of this business.”

A revitalized resort means higher land values ​​for those who live near and around. According to Workhieser, who does not live on the island but owns three properties there, the mere speculation of a buyer wanting to come in and buy the resort has boosted property values.

The second reading of the sentencing process will take place at the next county council meeting on August 8.

This story was originally published July 19, 2022 8:43 a.m.

Lynn A. Saleh