A petition is circulating in Hilton Head Island, nearly 300 signatures strong, to persuade Hilton Head Island Town Council and the mayor to convert some public tennis courts to green space and playgrounds for local children.
Some neighbors of the Cordillo Courts apartments have signed the petition. They say their children desperately need the space, and that the existing tennis courts are rundown, not well-kept by the town.
The petition was started by the Neighborhood Outreach Connection (NOC), the nonprofit group that tutors children after school in the area where there are many underprivileged families.
“We have little kids, and they don’t have a place to do over here, to play,” said parent Gloria Mina.
Mina has two boys, ages 3 and 4 years old. She has signed the petition to make the tennis courts a play area for children.
“Well, I think it would change a lot, because most of the kids that we have here, they’re little kids,” Mina said.
Currently, children ride bikes and scooters in the parking lot of the apartment complexes and play soccer on the tennis courts. Some parents call it unsafe.
“Part of the issue over here is that children don’t have any facilities where they can have some down time,” Dr. Naren Sharma, founder of NOC, says.
Sharma says there are some 180 children living in the community that would utilize the proposed space, 1.42 acres, for recreation.
However, the Town is in talks of selling the property back to its original owner, the Cordillo Courts and Hedges complex regimes. The Town’s plan would sell the land for $265,000, a price Sharma calls below-market-value.
Town Manager Steve Riley says it doesn’t make sense for the Town to own the property, since it is rarely used by the public, and proves difficult to maintain. Riley says transforming it into anything else is difficult, because a covenant prevents it from being anything but tennis courts.
“The covenant’s not going to change without two-thirds of your owners voting to do that, which is probably not ever going to happen,” Riley said.
“We could condemn the covenants, but not sure if that would actually succeed if we were challenged, because there’s other places we could build a park. We don’t have to build there,” he says.
Within the Town’s plan to sell, the Town instructs it would have the obligations of removing the four existing tennis courts, sod and irrigate the area, and repair asphalt and curbing before closing. Those expenditures are estimated at $51,000.
However, Riley says the decision to sell is still ultimately up to Town Council; the Council could still be persuaded by the petition.
“Let’s give [families] a decent place for them to have a picnic or have their children play safely, rather than riding a bike around a parking lot or trying to play soccer on a disheveled or a dilapidated tennis court,” Ally McNair with NOC said.
There is discussion scheduled in the April 5 council meeting.