A developer who purchased a 500-acre island property in St. Helena Island, SC, keeps re-working his plans to develop a golf community there as local officials keep denying them. At issue is the protection of the centuries old Gullah-Geechee community whose descendants still farm the land and own other businesses there.

A decades-old zoning law on St. Helena Island bans golf carts, resorts and gated communities in an area that the enslaved Gullah-Geechee people, descended from Central and West African societies, settled as farmers and merchants at the end of the Civil War. The law was enacted to protect the Gullah-Geechee from the kind of development that had earlier pushed them out of other coastal areas like Daufuskie Island just to the east of Hilton Head, and Hilton Head itself. An estimated population of one million Gullah peoples live along the Southeast coast, but their populations are diminishing.

Developer Elvio Tropeano moved to St. Helena a few years ago and, earlier this year, purchased the land on St. Helena called Pine Island with the idea of building a golf course and luxury homes. Since then he, and dozens of concerned local citizens, have appeared before meetings of the town’s zoning commission. The arguments from both sides goes like this: Local groups object to the development because chemicals that are sure to be used on the golf course will leech into the local waterways and farmland and destroy the local Gullah people’s farms; and the 160 luxury homes Tropeano intends to build will increase property taxes. Ruining their farms and raising their taxes, the reasoning goes, will drive the Gullah from the area just as it did on Hilton Head and Daufuskie Islands.

Dataw geen and homesThe Dataw Island golf community is just six miles from the controversial zoning issues on St. Helena Island. With its 36 holes and mature population, the community should not see any big development nearby as a threat.

Tropeano counters by asking a rhetorical question at the local meetings: “How do I create recognition and generate resources in a manner that does not displace people?” Fair enough but, publicly, he has responded that if things don’t go his way with the golf course development, he will go ahead and build his 160 luxury homes and add 90 deep-water docks. That’s no way to win friends and influence people. His latest response to concerns about the golf course was to suggest he build three six-hole layouts on different parcels of land. As one of the Gullah supporters said in a local media report, “A golf course is a golf course, no matter how small.” The Battle of St. Helena Island goes on. (Here’s one local article about it.)

Meanwhile, a mere six miles away, the well-established golf community of Dataw Island must be looking on with some interest, if not concern. Dataw, which is home to two excellent golf courses -- one by Tom Fazio, the other by Arthur Hills -- and a beautiful low-country location, was opened in the mid 1980s. Located less than a half hour from the charming southern town of Beaufort (byou-fert) and the same distance from an Atlantic Ocean beach at Hunting Island, Dataw Island splits the difference between quiet, pollution and traffic-free living with access to the kinds of lifestyle embellishments retirees look for in a forever golf home. (I visited and published a full review of the Dataw Island golf community in 2015.)

Currently, local Dataw listings are showing five homes for sale and 15 homesites. The homes are listed from $439K to $875K, and the lots from $23,900 (that one is located on the Fazio golf course). If you want more information about Dataw or a referral to the highly qualified real estate agent I work with there, please contact me.

Cliffs at Mountain Park, Travelers Rest, SC. Some sources estimate the low cost of living in SC more than makes up for its modest income tax rate compared with no-tax states.

Fidelity, the giant investment advisory firm, recently published “5 things to consider” before choosing where to live in retirement.  I love Fidelity, which is where most of my investments are held, but they missed at least a dozen things to consider before choosing a retirement place, especially if you plan to play golf.

Fidelity’s "5 things" are exclusively about money, as you would expect of a financial services firm. They are all good points, especially this one: “Look beyond potential state-tax savings when considering a move.” As I have written ad nauseum because it is such a common retiree mistake, you need to have enough income in retirement to make living in a no-income tax state a major consideration. After retirement, many people count on social security as a significant source of income, but social security maxes out at around $50,000 a year. To make a compelling argument for no-income-tax states to rise to the top of your list of considerations, you will need supplementary sources of income well in excess of the social security amount. Even in that case if, for example, you prefer South Carolina (6.5% to income tax rate) to Florida (0% income tax as a place to retire, be mindful that the generally lower property taxes ad cost of living in the Palmetto State might neutralize the advantage of the Sunshine State’s 0% state income tax. One website, My Life Elsewhere, indicates that cost of living in Florida is 10% more expensive than in South Carolina.

When you begin to research where you might live in retirement, state income tax should be well down the list, at least to start. What should be at the top is a decision on geography, specifically whether you want to live on the coast, on a lake or in the mountains. Once you and your partner agree on the “topography,” the next decision will be what I call the Proximity Consideration. Would you prefer a rural location free of noise and air pollution, or easy access to a city and all it has to offer? Personal health considerations, current and future, could guide that decision as well. Your level of frustration with traffic could also have an impact. There are wonderful golf communities within a few miles of cities and traffic, and others a good 90 minutes away with clear sailing along the local roads.

After you decide on a few geographical areas to consider, don’t choose too many – too many is more than six, which will burn up a lot of gas and airline miles and confuse the heck out of you. (There are a fine selection of golf communities in most areas.) In moving to the next level in your search, you will need to visit the areas you identify, and the golf communities within those areas, to determine if they are suitable.

And when you visit, there are a whole raft of other considerations which I have conveniently packed into a 150-page guide to the entire search process for a golf home. It is called Glorious Back Nine: How to Find Your Dream Golf Home, and it is available in both paperback and electronic editions at Amazon.com  for just $9.99 and $5.99, respectively. If you would like the benefit of my nearly 20 years of assisting people to find their golf home and all the research I did to produce the book, fill out my one-minute questionnaire for hands-on, no fee guidance in finding your dream home.  Shortly after I receive your responses, we can arrange for a phone conversation to get you started – or to pick up from wherever you are in your search. In the meantime, please consider subscribing to our newsletter, which we publish 10 times a year and which highlights some of the same issues in my book. Subscribe here