A plan to build a private hotel, conference center and golf course on a portion of what is now Lake Hartwell State Park gained approval Tuesday from the State Budget and Control Board.
Board members voted 4-1 to allow the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism to sublease 325 acres of the state park to developer Sanctuary Pointe. The 686 acres that make up the park are leased to the state through 2058 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom was the lone vote against the plan, citing concerns about environmental impacts. He also was afraid if the developer pulled out the state would be forced to restore the property to its original condition at great cost to the state.
Some neighbors of the park and Upstate conservation leaders have expressed similar concerns. They are especially worried about building a golf course on the steep-sloped peninsula, fearing polluted runoff from chemicals used to keep grass green.
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“It might be a good idea for some place, but it’s a bad idea for the proposed one,” said Thomas Manning of Pendleton.
The promise of jobs and development won out. Developers plan to build the hotel, conference center and golf course by 2020.
“It is anticipated that this project will bring much needed jobs and new economic viability to Oconee County as well as the adjoining areas,” said Duane Parrish, director of the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.
The deal calls for Sanctuary Pointe to pay rent of 1 percent of its gross operational receipts for its first three years and 1.5 percent for the next 43 years.
The leased property is off Exit 1 on I-85 about halfway between Anderson and Seneca. Private developers have approached the state parks agency for decades about the property on Lake Hartwell, but nothing got past the proposal stage. Then in 2008, the state put out a request for proposals to develop the land, an effort which led to the Sanctuary Pointe plan.