Q: What is Renew 50?
A: “Renew 50” is the name of the multi-phase facilities improvement needs of the Lake House and Oyster Catcher Facilities Upgrade project to meet property owners’ needs both near and longer term. Renew 50 also recognizes the upcoming golden anniversary of the Seabrook Island Property Owners Association to be celebrated in 2024 – the year we hope to break ground on the new offerings on the Oyster Catcher parcel.
NORTH AMERICAN LAND TRUST
Q: What is the North American Land Trust (NALT)? How does it relate to the Lake House??
A: The North American Land Trust (NALT) was established in 1992. Its primary mission is to conserve and steward natural and cultural resources through innovative land preservation partnerships. As such, NALT’s mission aligns well with SIPOA’s vision and mission. In 1995, the prior owner of the 20-acre property on which the Lake House (LH) sits granted a conservation easement to NALT which limits development of the property and obligates the owner to steward the environment. SIPOA inherited those restrictions and obligations when that prior owner donated the property to SIPOA in 1996.
Q: What is a conservation easement?
A: A conservation easement is a set of restrictions negotiated between a property owner and a land trust which perpetually limits development and preserves a property largely in its natural state. It carries over to all subsequent owners of the property and, in this case, to SIPOA as the current owner of the LH property. A land trust, in this case NALT, is a non-profit organization which holds the development rights granted to it in the conservation easement and enforces the obligations of the landowner to conserve the property in perpetuity. Similarly, SIPOA also holds title to more than 40 green-space properties originally conserved by the Seabrook Island Green Space Conservancy, subject to restrictions which conserve those properties in their natural states for perpetuity.
To qualify for a conservation easement, the property must include one or more of the following conservation purposes:
1. Conserve land area for the general recreation or education of the general public;
2. Protect a natural habitat or similar ecosystem;
3. Preserve open space if it yields a significant public benefit;
4. Preserve a historically important land area or certified structure.
Q: What is the property owner benefit from the conservation easement for the Lake House and surrounding property?
A: Conservation easements are used to preserve the land, in perpetuity, and ensure that it is appropriately maintained and continues to meet the original purposes of the community. Conservation of our natural environment is a high priority for our property owners. Their enjoyment of the LH is frequently and intrinsically linked to their enjoyment of the open space around the LH.
Q: What are reserved rights and how do they affect the Lake House (LH) and surrounding property?
A: Reserved rights are the permitted uses of the property under the terms of the conservation easement. SIPOA works with North American Land Trust (NALT) to ensure that uses of the LH property are in accordance with the terms of the conservation easement. To make changes to the LH or surrounding property, SIPOA must first propose the changes to NALT and garner its approval before moving forward. Partnering with NALT to reach an agreement is a requirement. We cannot bypass this step.
Q: How does a partnership with NALT benefit SIPOA and property owners on a go-forward basis?
A: The success of establishing a stronger working relationship with NALT has the potential to transform a critical relationship from one in which NALT acts as a monitor and occasional adjudicator to one in which it serves as an ongoing, expert advisor in planning the future of the LH property in ways beneficial to our property owners and our conservation efforts. Its involvement is not only practical but also is wholly consistent with the conservation ethos that is an integral part of the Seabrook Island lifestyle.
Q: Can the NALT conservation easement be removed from the Lake House and surrounding property?
A: No. A conservation easement is a legally-binding document that ensures the land will be conserved in perpetuity. As the holder of the conservation easement on the LH property, it is NALT’s responsibility to ensure its terms are upheld forever.
Q: Where can you get more information on NALT?
A: If you want more information on NALT and its work to conserve land for future generations to come, its website is here.
Q: Why was the North American Land Trust (NALT) not contacted by SIPOA to investigate possible expansion of the Lake House (LH) before the Renew 40 Oyster Catcher (OC) site proposal was developed?
A: SIPOA has a long history of contacting NALT regarding proposed changes to the LH and surrounding property. NALT denied many of those requests because NALT contended those changes would reduce the property’s overall natural conservation area.
Although NALT approved the concept of constructing a 2nd story on the LH, that option was not pursued because the existing structure would not support a 2nd story. A 2nd story requires significant tear-down, rebuild, and the ageing OC facility would enhance property owner amenities on the site.
The Renew 50 Committee therefore proceeded in this direction with the support of the SIPOA Board.
Given the strong adverse reaction to the OC proposal, all options were back on the table and it was decided to reopen discussions with NALT about possibilities for development of the LH property. During the course of these discussions, SIPOA shared Property Owner’s concerns with the original OC proposal (i.e., cost, design concept, intrusion within an existing neighborhood, parking, traffic, etc.). NALT came to a better understanding of SIPOA’s needs and challenges and agreed to partner with SIPOA to find a new “win-win” approach to fulfill both organizations’ visions for the LH site. This new approach would include a design for SIPOA’s future expansion needs at the LH to complement the aesthetic of the existing structure while simultaneously enhancing the natural environment on the LH property – all at a significantly lower cost than the OC proposal.
The process going forward will include property owner input through a survey and focus groups and subsequent refinement of development concepts in consultation with NALT. A referendum seeking property owner approval via a voting process is a required step in the project timeline. Regular updates will be provided to property owners as the process continues.
Q: When the new Oyster Catcher facility is available, what will Property Owners be able to do there?
A: The concept usage of the new facility describes a great place for Property Owners to gather near the beach to relax by the pool and swim, enjoy fellowship with others in multiple meeting spaces to be reserved for one of the nearly 30 affinity and interest groups, to gather for small parties whether as private rentals, celebrations, or other special events. The SIPOA Library will be there for borrowing of books or other media or enjoyed onsite. Wi-Fi access will be available throughout the area with AV capabilities in the meeting spaces. Possibly a “grab n go” offering with simple refreshments to enjoy onsite or as property owners head to the beach. Property owners also will be able to access parking to Boardwalk 1 and North Beach. A dog washing and rinse off showers and restrooms also will be available.
Q: What will be the capacity for the Oyster Catcher pool? More? Less? than current pool?
A: Based on the current design, the Oyster Catcher pool’s capacity will be 2,500 square feet compared to the current Oyster Catcher pool capacity of 1,900 square feet.
Q: How will the parking capacity change at Oyster Catcher?
A: Currently there are 60 parking spaces for property owners. After Renew 50, if the referendum is approved, there will be 85 parking spaces for Property Owners.
Q: Is “fast-casual” or “grab-n-go” food really needed at Oyster Catcher? If so, does that mean that owners can no longer bring in drinks/food like they can today at Oyster Catcher and the Lake House outdoor pool?
A: It has not yet been determined if “fast-casual” food will be a feature of the renewed Oyster Catcher Community Center. A kitchen/food catering area will be available for members’ events at the renewed Oyster Catcher Community Center. Property Owners and their accompanied guests will be able to bring in food/drinks following the current rules at the Oyster Catcher and outdoor Lake House pools.
Q: Will there be a bar at the Oyster Catcher?
A: There are no plans to have a bar at the new Oyster Catcher facility.
Q: Once the new Oyster Catcher facility opens, will there be staff assigned to ensure that only Property Owners and their accompanied guests use the facility?
A: Yes, there will be staff on hand to ensure only Property Owners and their accompanied guests can access and use the renewed Oyster Catcher Community Center.
Q: Will Boardwalk 1 be restricted for Property Owners only?
A: No. All boardwalks are open to all. There was a misstatement at one of the information sessions on this point. All Property Owners, guests and renters are free to use our boardwalks.
Q: How old is the Oyster Catcher building? Wasn’t it just updated a few years ago?
A: The Oyster Catcher building is about 40 years old – having exceeded its anticipated useful life of about 30 years. Improvements were made to update the kitchen area, flooring, HVAC, roof and crawl space in 2016. The AV equipment has also been improved with additional equipment in 2016. There are increasing maintenance challenges and related expenses as the Oyster Catcher building and pool continue to age.
Q: What is the useful square footage of the buildings in the initial concept design shared at the February information sessions?
A: The existing 40-year-old building is 2,170 sf on one floor. The initial concept design has three buildings each with a ground, first, and second floor: 1) the bath house is 3,361 sf , 2) the kitchen space is 2,845 sf, and the assembly hall is 5,096 sf totaling 12,064 sf of heated space. Looking at the three buildings by level, the ground floor space is 790 sf total with the first floor designed to be 6,126 sf, and the second floor totaling 5,148 sf. The buildings must follow height restrictions, like any Seabrook Island building. As a reminder, this initial concept design is just that, a starting point. The Engagement phase gives the team time and property owner input to refine the design. Both property owner likes and dislike change the design. This is an iterative design process.
Q: After construction is completed, given the expanded facilities at the Lake House and the new “Oyster Catcher”, beyond the capital investment, how much of an increase should be expected in operating expenses to staff and maintain both?
A: Estimated annual operating cost for the new Oyster Catcher facility is around $400,000 this would increase the annual community assessment by approximately $160.
Q: What is the vision for the use of the Lake House in the future once the Oyster Catcher facility is upgraded?
A: The vision for the Lake House through the Renew 50 project is to dedicate the entire Lake House to fitness and wellness activities and services. This focus will enable staff to achieve the following enhanced operations to improve property owner satisfaction: 1) offering of multiple large group-exercise classes during the peak times property owners desire; 2) meeting growing demand for a more diverse variety of smaller, semi-private fitness classes based on specialized desires and multiple life stages of property owners; 3) a more spacious, efficient, and pleasing organization of gym/workout equipment; and 4) enhanced ability to better accommodate the already high and growing demand for limited wellness spa services.
Q: Is it true that the Indoor Pool will be eliminated to make room for a Spa?
A: No and has never been in consideration. The indoor Fitness Pool at the Lake House is not impacted by the proposed enhancements as part of the Renew 50 project.
Q: If the Lake House is not big enough, why not just expand in the adjacent field?
A: When the land was donated and the Lake House built, there were specific restrictions defined in the agreement with the donor trust that prohibits footprint expansion or building on the adjacent green spaces.
Q: Could a second floor be added to the Lake House?
A: No, the Lake House was not constructed to be able to add a second floor.
Q: Why would SIPOA spend money to renovate the Lake House for more fitness class space to benefit the independent personal trainers?
A: From day one of the Lake House all our fitness trainers have been independent contractors who conduct classes that SIPOA specifies. This is a common staffing model used across the fitness industry. It supports flexibility (staff up/staff down), and the trainers are managed by SIPOA. All fitness trainers are credentialed and provide their own insurance. They are 1099 workers and are not eligible for any benefits SIPOA provides employees. All billing is done through SIPOA, which retains a portion of the fees charged for classes/training, etc.
The trainers also can conduct personal training for individual clients and semi-private classes which are specialized classes with maximum enrollment of 10 to provide a more personalized experience than a large group class. SIPOA specifies what those classes are offered, and all classes are billed through SIPOA, again with a portion retained by SIPOA.
Using the independent fitness trainers reduces SIPOA’s payroll and insurance costs and allows us to utilize fitness trainers as demand for number and variety of classes increases/decreases. Currently, the demand for fitness, private and semi-privateer classes has increased 190% in the last 4 years. The Lake House does not have the rooms that are the correct size and configuration to accommodate the fitness demands and interests of our property owners.
Q: What’s the data that reinforces the desire for a wellness Spa that also offers facials and other services?
A: The demand for massages has increased significantly with current waiting time to get appointments extending several months currently. With additional massage and wellness spa services, capacity backlog will be reduced so that property owners will be able to book appointments on a timelier basis. The Renew 50 scope does not include a full service spa like Kiawah’s Sasanqua Spa.
Q: Will the wellness spa be run by SIPOA, or will it be outsourced to a company with expertise in Spa operations?
A: The SIPOA Lake House team will continue to manage a core offering of wellness-related spa services, which are expected to include massages and facials. Nail services or hair styling, for example, are not part of the proposed expanded offerings at the Lake House.
Q: Will the new Lake House allow non-Seabrook Island Owners/guests to visit the spa and workout facilities as “visitors”?
A: The Lake House fitness, pool and other services will continued to be offered for property owners, their guests, as well as rental guests on Seabrook Island who pay additional fees for use of the facilities, fitness class participation and other services.
Q: With expanded space for massages at the Lake House, will SIPOA also enact a “property owners-first” policy for the booking of massages to avoid backlogs and/or avoiding situations when rental guests on-island for a wedding, for example, could shut out access to property owners?
A: This will be reviewed further by the SIPOA/Lake House team and the Activities Committee in the future.
Q: We use the Lake House all the time and we don’t see “Overcrowding”? Why do we need more space for meeting rooms?
A: We realize that we did not do a very good job of explaining this issue. Right now, we are not able to accommodate the demand of the fitness groups. We are having a utilization issue of the one room we have for fitness classes which is Live Oak Hall. The issue is we have more groups wanting to use it at certain desirable times of the day than we have open times. Thus, the utilization issue. This is the reason for wanting to add additional smaller rooms. We need the right size rooms open at the right time of day with the right ventilation.
Q: Why don’t we keep renters out of the Lake House and make it for owners only? Then it won’t be crowded?
A: The data shows renters are not the cause of the 193% increase in the monthly fitness classes causing the utilization issue of the Live Oak Hall room. Renters are not the cause of the therapists being booked months out for Spa services.
Q: What is the history on massage services at the Lake House? What is the construction at the Lake House of two new massage rooms?
A: A therapeutic massage room was included in the original construction of the Lake House in 2009. The original massage room was the space between the women’s and men’s locker rooms. That location proved to be too noisy and was moved about 5 years ago to its current location off the library. This location is quieter but the room lacks adequate space. In addition, Property Owners’ interest in therapeutic massage services has continued to increase over the years. A backlog of 6-8 weeks for therapeutic massage and facial services has existed for quite some time for Property Owners and guests of owners.
Creating two therapeutic massage rooms from Bobcat 1 was proposed in the Lake House budget 3 years ago. It was approved in 2022 for the 2023 budget. The recent construction of the new therapeutic massage rooms is not part of Renew 50.
PROPERTY OWNER ENGAGEMENT
Q: Who is the target audience for the proposed changes – Property Owners? Renters? Others?
A: The Renew 50 project is designed for Property Owners to enhance the offerings available in our Seabrook Island Community.
Q: When will “additional forums” be held to get property owners’ input?
A: Property Owner Listening Sessions began in January 2023 with 5 sessions with randomly selected property owners and 1 session dedicated to the North Beach neighborhood. Focus Groups will be scheduled for April and May 2023 giving Property Owners opportunity to continue to provide input to preliminary conceptual designs.
We are seeking thoughtful and constructive property owner input. We understand some folks do not support change which is their prerogative. The SIPOA Long Range Plan calls for expansion of health and fitness space and social gathering space from needs studies conducted by prior Boards. The BoD has a responsibility to deliver initiatives to keep SIPOA assets and services in line with current and future property owner needs and wants. As we work toward introducing change to make Seabrook Island even better than it is today both for us and our children, constructive feedback on the Lake House usage for health and fitness and Oyster Catcher usage for property owner gathering and socializing would be very necessary. What about features, i.e. gathering spaces, fire pit, meeting rooms, etc.? What reasonable cost/assessment would be feasible for you? What architectural style fits? Please share your thoughts on possible improvements and constraints.
Q: Why is this the first time we are hearing about this?
A: This effort has been communicated in multiple ways for over a year. We have communicated in e-blast, the monthly Currents magazine, President’s new letters, BOD meetings and 5 listening sessions with Property owners. One earlier communication to the community you may recall was in the Summer 2022 – Issue 20 of Currents followed by four more Currents articles in 2022.
Q: Why can’t we expand the SIPOA Landfall building to accommodate meeting space?
A: We have examined this option. More specifically we need to expand the SIPOA Landfall Way building to accommodate our Admin staff. We have had surveyors out to determine how far we can expand. Any expansion will likely just support the additional Admin needs. Additionally, our cost estimates suggest Landfall Way can be addressed at a cost low enough that it can be addressed through the annual budgeting and maintenance process.
Q: Why were the North Beach Property Owners not consulted?
A: There are 29 homes in the North Beach area. 43 homeowners and 5 limited liability corporations comprising the ownership of those 29 homes. They were all invited to a January 18, Renew 50 Listening Session focused on North Beach homeowners only. The purpose of the listening session was to provide North Beach homeowners with a preview of the project and to get their feedback. Of the 43 homeowners and 5 LLC’s invited, only 4 people accepted and there were about 6 that actually attended.
Q: What is a Focus Group? Is the Renew 50 team planning to use this technique to gather Property Owner input?
A: Focus groups are one of the most effective and popular market research methods available. Focus groups are used to gather qualitative data and in-depth insights from a target audience. They enable researchers to collect information on anything from products and services to beliefs and perceptions in order to reveal true customer attitudes and opinions guided through a discussion by a moderator. Focus groups can be used to explore a variety of different issues, to test solutions, to explore the group’s perspective of a problem and to generate ideas.
The group is typically made up of 6-10 people who are invited to discuss their opinions, thoughts, and feelings in a facilitated discussion.
The pros of a focus group include cost effectiveness, body language observation, and deeper engagement with the customers. The cons of a focus group include difficulty in engaging in a large group, time-consuming analysis or shy/uncomfortable participants.
The Renew 50 team plans to conduct focus groups in the coming months. They are considering the benefit of utilizing an outside facilitator versus a Seabrook Island volunteer. Considerations: funding, schedule, experience, and process knowledge.
Q: What are the results of the recent analysis of Property Owner feedback?
A: SIPOA received Property Owner feedback via email, Public Comment, and meeting comment sheets from February through March 2023. This input represents 270 households which is almost 11% of our 2590 properties. About the design proposal:
– 4% are fully supportive
– 11% are neutral (no positive or negative comments)
– 56% are skeptical (supportive of need but want more information or change)
– 29% are not supportive (doubt need or want no investment)
Property Owners communicated their concerns. The top two are:
– 56% cost too high
– 51% scope / design too grand
PROCESS FOR APPROVAL & TIMELINE
Q: Will Seabrook Island Property Owners be asked for input that might influence the design or features that will be part of the redesigned Lake House & Oyster Catcher Community Center?
A: Yes, property owner feedback will continue to be considered. In fact, the initial designs reflect feedback gathered through property owner surveys, usage data, feedback and input of the volunteers on the Facilities Planning Subcommittee.
Q: Will Seabrook Island Property Owners be asked to vote on the design during the February 2023 annual meeting?
A: No, not during the February 2023 annual meeting. Rather, a separate referendum will be presented to Seabrook Island Property Owners following a series of feedback and comment sessions.
Q: If the proposal is approved by Seabrook Island Property Owners, when will construction begin and how long will it take to complete?
A: Once the referendum is approved, it is estimated that it will take approximately 12 months to complete approval processes with the Town of Seabrook Island and Charleston County.
Q: How was the architectural firm selected and why was a low country style not presented?
A: The architect was selected from candidates who: 1) are local, 2) have prior experience with the project type, 3) have prior experience on either Seabrook or Kiawah Island, successfully working with their ARC or ARB, and 4) are creative. The “shortlist” was identified by a subcommittee of seven members with Chuck Cross, a Board member, as Chair. Chuck was also ARC Chair at the time.
Any design concept evolves – this one will too. Style results from balancing multiple influences, including the environment, the program, local architecture, and input from its owners. The process is at the beginning. With the feedback heard from our property owners, the program and this design will likewise respond and evolve.
Q: What are the voting requirements for the Referendum approval?
A: We need a 35% quorum which represents approximately 900 votes AND we need 600 ‘YES’ votes or 2/3rds of the quorum. This year’s vote number was 1,300. If it was for the referendum, we would need 871 yes votes to pass which is 2/3.
Q: Why are we rushing to a referendum proposal to be voted on by the Seabrook Island Property Owners in June? Why can’t we take more time and get it right?
A: We have created a project plan with work activities and milestones within phases. This plan was created to set high-level expectations of the project scope and work. It’s both an education vehicle to Property Owners and a work plan for the project team. Like any plan, the dates are created to set a course by creating a timeline for work to be delivered against. As in best project management practice, as new information surfaces, the plan is reviewed and revised to be realistic and achievable. The plan must deliver a quality result addressing the needs identified. The referendum date of summer of 2023 is a target based on what we knew at the time. This date is not cast in stone. We will take the time needed in the Property Owner Engagement phase and recast dates as necessary. As a reminder, there is a SIPOA process which must be followed for a referendum, including communication notification to Property Owners.
Q: Why undertake such a major project when there are known future expenses – mainly drainage projects, road repaving and relocation of Cap’n Sams inlet- that are not sufficiently funded and which will likely raise SIPOA assessments?
A: We have been funding and continue to fund the drainage projects out of the annual budget. We also have funded and continue to fund reserves for the 2028 road repaving and 2029 recut of Cap’n Sams Inlet. These monies are allocated in the annual budget process and included in your annual assessment.
Q: What are the environmental considerations that have been incorporated into the design? Solar? Geo-thermal?
A: Solar and geo-thermal features for heating, ventilation and air conditioning have been thoroughly evaluated as part of the initial concept development plans. In so doing, the architects and construction engineers concluded that any environmental benefits derived from their deployment would be better achieved by instead deploying their cost into a more technologically advanced and reliable HVAC system. This system would use state-of-the-art equipment and controls to heat and cool the various structures proposed for the Oyster Catcher site in a balanced manner and most effectively. This decision was influenced by past difficulties encountered with the current Lake House HVAC system that have required substantial expenditures to correct. The Facilities Committee is intent on avoiding the installation of expensive maintenance-prone systems that would be more likely to require significant outlays over their lifecycle and thus pose challenges for maintaining interior uniform comfort levels.