Peter Kristian came to Hilton Head Island 15 years ago for a job. Soon, the general manager of Hilton Head Plantation realized that beyond its natural beauty, the island was setting national trends in community development.
Now, he’s looking forward to showcasing that forward thinking to his fellow members of the Community Associations Institute (CAI), an international organization dedicated to building better communities.
The group will hold its annual Large Scale Managers Workshop with the Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island serving as the home base for the sold-out conference from Sept. 17-20.
“We didn’t even see Hawaii fill up this quick last year,” said Kristian, a former president of CAI, of last year’s conference held in Honolulu. “There’s a huge interest here and it’s going to pay a huge economic benefit to the island.
But beyond that, it’s going to spur a lot of future residents in our communities.”
Kristian is proud to have his community serve as one of the main showcase properties for the conference. Outside of a full agenda of speakers and hot topics for the community management world, the 125 attendees will tour a cross section of Lowcountry properties – HHP, Sun City Hilton Head, Palmetto Dunes, Sea Pines and Shipyard Plantation.
“These folks are coming from all walks of community management, so it was important to spotlight the great work going on down here,” Kristian said. “It’s an opportunity to showcase your property, for folks to go back to their home and emulate what we’re doing here and to spread the gospel to attract new homeowners and visitors.”
Kristian said he still gets calls from word of mouth spreading through the CAI ranks when the island last hosted the event 15 years ago.
“We have a number of unique characteristics and approaches to what we do,” Kristian said. “This is a national showcase to stay as a leader in how communities stay ahead of trends.”
One topic for discussion will be the island’s uncommon use of security forces, as HHI is one of the few communities nationally to have the full powers of a sheriff’s deputy.
Sea Pines officials will also speak specifically to the challenges in staging a live event. Head of Security Toby McSwain will discuss the resort’s unique approaches to security around the RBC Heritage.
Mark Baker from landscape architects Wood+Partners will discuss trends to identify in community development to help attract new owners, as well as ways that established communities can always be ahead of the trends.
“We don’t like to admit it, but golf and tennis seem to be trending downward,” Kristian said. “We’ll talk about biking, jogging, lifetime education and ways that we are catering to owners who have ever less leisure time.”
Theresa Wade, of Experience Green, will talk about sustainable practices and what a community needs to do to stay sustainable. Kristian said they’ll point to the island’s efforts to reclaim all used water and use it to irrigate the golf courses.
Scott Liggett, town of Hilton Head director of public projects, will talk about how to best foster relationships with local government. It’s another area where the island is a national leader, one of the few towns committed to cleaning up behind the gates after a major event like a hurricane. Liggett will also talk about beach renourishment and stormwater management.
Sea Pines wildlife and natural resources director, David Henderson, will talk about the resort’s forest preserve and wildlife management and how to best manage the growing trend of nature as a signature draw for managed communities.
Kristian said he is specifically looking forward to showcasing his community’s investment in a $135,000 slope mower and the resident-run farm where produce such as oranges, blueberries and bananas are grown and sold to residents.
He is also looking forward to spotlighting HHP’s mulching operation, where they ask residents to drop off yard waste, then grind it and return it to residents to mulch their yards.
“It’s just one example of the innovating we’re all doing here,” he said. “Things such as how we control erosion around lagoons and how we keep pesticides away from residents are stories worth sharing.”
Kristian also said he plans to talk about how HHP has created a vegetative buffer that filters out sediment and serves as a wildlife habitat.
“We allow 4 to 6 feet around waterways to grow wild,” he said. “We’re always being asked, ‘When are you going to cut that?’ But it’s kept long to serve a very specific purpose. I have been to more of these workshops than I can remember, but I know these kinds of ideas will resonate with the CAI members.”
The agenda will offer conference-goers enough downtime to truly experience the island and all its splendor. A fishing tournament and golf matches, a Lowcountry boil and nightly shows with island musical legends like The Headliners will keep conference-goers moving all night.
Above all, Kristian hopes that both he and his island colleagues can learn as much from the attendees as they hope to impart to their cohorts.
“We feel like we’re being very proactive in our community improvements and can’t wait to share our successes with the conference," he said.