The Town of Hilton Head Island's Planning Commission approved a rezoning request Wednesday to allow additional retail use at two properties off William Hilton Parkway near the entrance to Palmetto Dunes.
The Commission voted unanimously, with Al Vadnais absent, to change the zoning of a Verizon Wireless store and adjacent vacant property from low-density office and park use to a higher-density commercial center.
The change allows for retail and auto sales, shopping center, bar, nightclub, dance studio, convenience store, tattoo parlor, supermarket and community theater.
Bluffton commercial real estate broker Ernest Marchetti made the request on behalf of Billy and Karen Watson, who own the Verizon store and a vacant lot that occupy 2 and 4 Marina Side Drive.
Marchetti said his clients have been unable to sell or lease the vacant property for office use, but has had offers from a retailer and fast-food chain.
Fast-food restaurants, adult entertainment, liquor store and auto repair among others are permitted with special exception under the zoning change.
"There's a 30 percent vacancy rate of office space on the island," Marchetti said. "There's not a demand for office space because there's so many vacancies and it will take a while to absorb that."
He argued -- and commissioners agreed -- despite the zoning, the area is commercially oriented and allowed uses under the rezoning would not be different from what's already there, including a motel, restaurants and miniature golf business. Fresh Market Shoppes is also down the street, though it's not considered part of that zoning district.
"This is a neighborhood commercial area ... My sense is the request is in keeping with the character of the area," said commissioner Tom Crews.
Town staff, however, recommended the request be denied because it is inconsistent with the town's comprehensive plan.
Though the zoning change could improve the marketing potential of the property, the existing zoning district was established to minimize travel impacts on the street system, encourage better compatibility in and among land uses on the island and provide a balance among land use types in major corridors, said town planner Nicole Dixon.
"There is an adequate supply of commercially zoned properties on the island," in areas where roadway capacity is better suited to handle additional traffic, Dixon said.
Commissioners said ingress and egress to the site off of William Hilton Parkway onto side streets was adequate and believed the town needs to do a better job helping owners develop and redevelop their properties, where appropriate.
The issue moves to Town Council's Planning and Development Standards Committee before going to the full council for final approval.