'The people should vote on it': Holiday Isle resident calls for referendum on comp plan change

Matt Algarin

As the city nears adoption of its comprehensive plan 2020, some residents are still confused as to what the changes mean to them and the communities they call home.

"I'd like to strongly suggest that you do not approve this ordinance tonight," Holiday Isle resident Guy Tadlock said during last week’s Local Planning Agency meeting at City Hall. "This thing has far reaching impact on this community — I think there should be a referendum and the people should vote on it."

About a dozen people — a mix of residents, developers and attorneys — attended Thursday's meeting where LPA members were tasked with reviewing proposed changes to the comprehensive plan, specifically dealing with changes to the Tier III public benefit, open spaces, and future land uses.

City leaders have been meeting with property owners and developers for the better part of four months to make changes that would ideally boost economic activity and redevelopment throughout the city.

"This has been, in my opinion, a very good exercise of further community input of writing a policy within the future land use category," Community Development Director Ken Gallander told LPA members.

Most of the public input came during the drafting of the comprehensive plan language that specifies the creation of a future land use — Henderson Beach Resort (HBR). The proposed zoning area would be located south of Hurricane Lanes and west of Matthew Boulevard and the Henderson Beach Inn property near the state park.

Developments in the HBR can vary in size, depending on where they are located. Projects on the north side of John Avenue can max out at 60 feet, five stories (Tier I), 80 feet, seven stories (Tier II), and 100 feet, nine stories (Tier III).

South of John Avenue, Tier I projects cannot exceed 60 feet, five stories. Tier II and III projects south of John Avenue and north of Scenic Highway 98 cannot exceed 80 feet, seven stories. Tier II and III projects south of Scenic Highway 98 cannot exceed a height of 70 feet, six stories.

While city staffers say the area wasn't created to support a specific project, there is only one development currently looking at the area. The Henderson Beach Resort project currently has an approved Tier I development order.

The project's developers, Dunavant Gulf, were originally granted a preliminary Tier III approval in 2009, but have scaled the project back for the time being. The Henderson Beach Parkside Resort Hotel would be a 170-room luxury hotel adjacent to Henderson Beach State Park. The four, possibly five, story hotel would feature a restaurant, spa, retail, and recreational features.

During past meetings, residents in the area near the project told city leaders the development didn't fit the "character" of the area, while developers maintain the project is "first class."

Outside of the HBR talks, a majority of the speakers Thursday night were from Holiday Isle. They told LPA members that many homeowners haven't been invited to attend meetings about the proposed comprehensive plan changes, and they don't "have an idea" what's happening.

"If you are going to affect 1,700 property owners on Holiday Isle...,” said John Burns, a Holiday Isle resident. “I would think there would be some type of discussion with those people."

"This is moving much faster than you are educating the public," Tadlock added. "Ninety percent of the voting people out there don't understand this."

Despite calls to hold the ordinance up, LPA members voted 4-3 to move the item forward to the city council, which must ultimately approve the overhaul. LPA members Jim Link, Harold Blackwood and Jim Nissley voted against the measure.