Renew 50 | Project Update

June 23, 2023 | The Renew 50 Team has published 5 separate communications, including one video from SIPOA President Bill Connolly, on the North American Land Trust/Lake House discussion. These communications are intended to be both educational and informative on new possibilities for incremental space at the Lake House. After listening to property owner feedback, the Renew 50 Team sent a Request for Proposal to 2 consulting firms to design, deliver, and report on a property owner survey and subsequent focus groups. After interviews and the selection of a vendor, funding will be requested at the July SIPOA Board meeting. The survey and focus groups will be conducted during late summer and fall.

June 14, 2023 | SIPOA President Bill Connolly shares an update on the Renew 50 Project. Click here to view.

June 7, 2023 | This update explains more about North American Land Trust (NALT), the Lake House (LH) conservation easement, and the implications in perpetuity.

A conservation easement is a legally-binding document that ensures specified 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.

To ensure our compliance with the conservation easement, SIPOA’s long-standing practice has been to garner NALT’s approval of any proposed changes to the LH or its surrounding property before moving forward. We certainly cannot bypass this step on a project as critical as this one.

After obtaining a better understanding of the challenges SIPOA and its property owners face, NALT has embraced working together with SIPOA to find a “win-win” solution for both the Trust and Seabrook Island. During our discussions, we requested NALT’s help to enhance conservation efforts at the LH site in conjunction with potential expansion efforts. Some initial conservation ideas include:

  • Meadow restoration – replanting our native pollinator meadow;
  • Addition of bird boxes;
  • Pond and wetland restoration around Palmetto Lake;
  • Improved shoulder habitats to our conservation land; and
  • Educational trails throughout LH adjacent conservation properties.

The Renew 50 Team’s success in partnering with NALT in a collaborative planning effort is, all by itself, a singular accomplishment. This collaboration has the potential to transform a relationship from one in which NALT acts as a monitor, and occasional adjudicator, to one in which it is an active advisor and participant in planning for our community’s future. NALT’s involvement is not only practical but also wholly consistent with the conservation ethos that is integral to Seabrook Island lifestyle.

We hope all property owners will avail themselves of upcoming opportunities to participate in the Renew 50 planning process.

If you would like more information on NALT, click here.

May 31, 2023 | After receiving community feedback on the initial design concept, the Renew 50 Team decided to restart conversations with North American Land Trust (NALT) leadership regarding the use of the Lake House (LH) site and how SIPOA and NALT might partner to enhance conservation values while allowing for future needed expansion of LH facilities.

NALT is a non-profit land conservation organization that works with a variety of conservation partners across the country to conserve diverse landscapes under conservation easement. In 1995, a conservation easement was established on the LH property. In 1996, the property was donated to SIPOA with the easement in place along with its restrictions and obligations.

During recent discussions with NALT, we explained the need to keep pace with the growth and changing demographics of the property owner population on Seabrook Island. We also candidly shared the property owners’ concerns with the earlier design concept, including scope, cost, intrusion within the existing neighborhood, parking, and traffic.

NALT was impressed with SIPOA’s conservation accomplishments over the years:

  • 10 properties near the LH added to conservation efforts – 11.1 acres
  • 41 properties donated to Green Space Conservancy
  • Designation as one of America’s Best Restored Beaches in 2016
  • Designation as an Audubon International Certified Sustainable Community in 2017

NALT has agreed to join SIPOA in creating a new strategic vision for the LH site that can meet the objectives of both organizations: providing adequate capacity for a growing and changing population of property owners while enhancing conservation values.

Next steps are to involve property owners in discussions, surveys, and focus groups to reconsider programmatic needs, establish priorities, and explore new options. Following feedback sessions, we will develop a more detailed conceptual approach for property owner review and approval.

The SIPOA President stated in his May 24 video that once this concept is ready, it will be brought before property owners for a referendum at an unspecified future date. The process will not be rushed, and generous time will be provided for input from Seabrook Island’s property owners.

The Renew 50 Team is listening. Please send your ideas to the Renew 50 Public Comment here.

May 24, 2023 | SIPOA President Bill Connolly shares an update on the Renew 50 Project. Click here to view.

May 12, 2023 | We have analyzed the 270 household inputs from the emails, comment sheets, and public comments. While this represents about 11% of our community, the input and the voice of the Property Owners describe the original strawman Oyster Catcher & Lake House proposal as too grand in scale. 29% of the 270 households were not supportive of any facility changes – no investment. 60% support the objective of addressing the Lake House utilization need, but at a lower cost (56%), reduced scope, and/or low country architecture (51%). The team has heard this input and is brainstorming lower cost, various locations, different style and smaller scope alternatives.

We plan to reach out to the 89% of the community we have not heard from to see what’s on their minds. We believe a simple survey is the appropriate tool. We plan to share one or two lower cost, smaller scale, low country design rough ideas. We believe the use of ‘Focus Groups’ would help flush out these ideas. In addition, we plan to create a video or two explaining the Lake House utilization analysis. We have already communicated the analysis with Part 1 and Part 2 articles, which are posted on the website.

May 5, 2023 | Since the initial SIPOA communications on the Renew 50 Project planning, about 270 households or property addresses have provided feedback from a variety of sources – email, Public Comment, paper presentation feedback sheets, etc…This update is intended as a partial report on direct feedback received thus far. There is still ongoing feedback analysis underway as the unstructured feedback with many varying views takes time to understand and categorize.

We value the 270 responses and are discussing outreach to the greater community to obtain as much comprehensive feedback as possible in parallel with the study and analysis of responses received so far.

The feedback is clear on two specific objections to the Renew 50 project as originally communicated:

  1. The cost is too high and
  2. The design/scope of the project doesn’t fit community expectations.

A couple of other points seem relatively clear, also, at this point from the 270 households:

  • A minority of residents are “against” Renew 50 in basically any form – apparently believing that what we have today is sufficient to serve our future needs or are fundamentally opposed to spending money on improvements of any kind.
  • A majority of respondents are “skeptical”. These respondents could be open to a modified proposal – either in scale/design content/or other aspects. It is these responses that are taking the most time to analyze due to the diversity of specific points and opinions.
  • There is a small number of respondents whose reaction to Renew 50 is “yes” inferring they expect the project to continue on course with a positive outcome.

The initial Renew 50 concepts were not a final proposal but rather a “straw man” designed to generate discussion of its advantages and disadvantages and to perhaps spur new and better Property Owner ideas. It was intended to gauge Property Owner feedback. Some have asked why this feedback was not solicited in advance of the initial proposal. The project team agreed it seemed it would be more meaningful for Property Owners to respond to a documented “concept” than to purely open-ended, speculative questions. The level of detail in most of the responses received to date seems to validate this approach.

In any case, we are in the midst of an ongoing process, and obtaining additional Property Owner feedback is still at the top of SIPOA’s action list. If you have not taken the time to send your thoughts and ideas directly to SIPOA – either via email or Renew 50 Public Comment – please take the time to do so. There are 2,590 households in our community. We want to hear from more Property Owners. We want you to have the opportunity to influence the course of this project – an important one in the historical development of our Seabrook Island community.

April 28, 2023 | As a follow-up to Property Owner questions and feedback, please read this additional information on the Lake House utilization. This Analysis Part 2 clarifies usage trends and estimates of future utilization of capacity. It complements the initial report (Part 1). Click here to read the full report.

March 9, 2023 | The SIPOA Board of Directors and the Renew 50 Committee have received several hundred comment sheets and emails from Property Owners over this past month. This input is rich with ideas and suggestions we can use to refine our initial concepts for the Lake House and Oyster Catcher opportunities. We are committed to listening to the community. As such, the Renew 50 team has decided to take time to analyze the feedback from Property Owners to understand concerns and recommendations. We will use this to determine how to adjust the initial concept design and plan. With this data mining work, we will adjust our timeline and delay the referendum. As you know and we’ve communicated, it’s good project planning to adjust timelines as new information comes to light and ultimately a better result can be achieved.