The Town of Hilton Head announced plans to purchase three land parcels along Jonesville Road — a longtime site of tension between developers eyeing empty land on the island and residents fighting to preserve the hub of a historic Gullah community.
Comprising 12,019 acres and valued at $7.6 million, the property sits just north of Jonesville Road, situated between Graham Lane and Paddocks Boulevard. The land was previously being considered for a housing complex of nearly 100 single-family units, part of a string of newly proposed developments that residents claimed would triple the population of the already crowded neighborhood.
“This council is committed to managing growth,” Mayor Alan Perry said in a press release. “When we learned of the opportunity to purchase this property, we took decisive action to remove it from the threat of immediate development.”
Although the town hasn’t specified its plans for the property, the planned acquisition marks a victory for the Jonesville Preservation Society, a young but fast-growing group of Jonesville residents and other islanders fighting to protect the historic neighborhood against excessive growth and preserving green spaces.
“I’m glad that they heard us,” society president Daniel Anthony told The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette.
Anthony believes the town’s decision is a direct consequence of the community’s grassroots movement, whose support and influence has quickly spread beyond the Jonesville neighborhood. The group’s survey on overdevelopment, launched in mid-January, garnered 1,303 responses in only nine days, with 91.3% of responses indicating support for a sixth-month moratorium on development across the island.
The survey’s results were presented to the Town Council at the Jan. 26 Public Planning Committee meetings. Five days later, council members voted unanimously to enter a contract to acquire the land.
The 12-acre parcel was formerly home to Driftwood Stable, a well-known equine experience that was forced to relocate after the land was rezoned for residential use in September. The business’ Facebook page has teased the opening of a new location, but the owners did not immediately reply when asked whether they would return to the original location following the town’s acquisition.
Despite last Tuesday’s clear victory for the Jonesville Preservation Society, the neighborhood’s stand against growth is far from over. Construction is already underway for the nearby Bailey’s Cove, a 147-unit housing development whose 29-acre lot dwarfs the town’s recent 12-acre acquisition.
Formerly the home of thick forests and the island’s signature marshlands, the flattened construction site is a constant visual reminder of the long road ahead for Jonesville Road.
Although residents are appreciative of the town’s recent decisions, Anthony says the Jonesville Preservation Society will continue advocating for long-term solutions, including the establishment of an islandwide development moratorium and an updated Land Management Ordinance that limits the density of housing projects.
On a larger scale, town officials have also begun making plans to manage growth in the Jonesville neighborhood. In a Jan. 3 Town Council workshop, Assistant Town Manager Shawn Colin announced the creation of a Jonesville District plan to assess the area’s zoning code, existing infrastructure and more to “establish expectations” for future development.