Apr 15 2010

Fighting for the island economy

By Kristin Hackler

According to their website, the Isle of Palms Islanders (also known as the Isle of Palms Concerned Citizens) is “a grassroots group keeping tabs on the City Council, Planning Commission, and other groups that work with the of the local government.” The group was formed in response to several of the laws passed recently by the Isle of Palms Council, which the group feels are “over-reaching, unfair and will only unwisely increase the role of government in our lives,” pointing out that, “many of these laws will not solve the problems for which they are intended.”

One law, in particular, has the group scrambling for signatures in protest. Known as ordinance 2010-08, the law basically requires that all new rental licenses on the island would not be allowed to exceed an overnight occupancy of 12 persons. “New” rental licenses, according to the ordinance, would be licenses bought after the final passage of the ordinance, which is expected to pass during the next Council meeting on April 27. Current rental licenses would be grandfathered in and would stay at their present overnight occupancy until the license is allowed to lapse. This ordinance, the Islanders state, is unacceptable.

“There are 22 places to eat on the island,” said resident Bill Casey during the last Isle of Palms Council meeting. “Do you think what you spent last year could support one of them? You could either drive a stake through tourism’s heart, or enjoy the spectacle it brings to the island.”

The issue of tourism and how much it fiscally supports the Isle of Palms is of great concern to The Islanders. In fact, they are also petitioning the Council to at least consider an economic study of the island to determine the impact of the ordinance in the future.

“One third [of the residents of Isle of Palms] pay 4% in property taxes,” The Islanders state on their website, “one third who have a second home on the island pay 6% in property taxes and the last third who own vacation rentals pay 6% property tax. On top of this, the ones who rent contribute over $2 million in room accommodations taxes. This represents the goose that lays the golden egg for us, the residents and our children whose recreation center is subsidized by tourism dollars … The days of stupid speculation are over, those guys are gone and most builders are gone. If people want rental homes close to the beach, they will not be building 7000 square foot mini hotels next to you on Hartnett or beyond. It just won’t happen.”

The Islanders currently meet on the second and fourth Thursday of the month at 11 a.m. in the Acme Cantina, located at 31 J.C. Long Blvd. Jimmy Ward, one of the group’s founders, asserted at the last meeting that The Islanders is welcoming and open to everyone. “This isn’t a closed society,” said Ward. “We’re open to everyone and everyone is welcome, unlike some other island organizations. In fact, several of us were rejected from the Isle of Palms Neighborhood Association.”

“We want to compromise, not pit against each other,” said Sonya Buckhannon, another of the group’s founding members. “We just need to find a common ground.”

Along with collecting signatures from islanders to fight ordinance 2010-08, The Islanders are in the process of organizing the Support Dan Mills Fundraiser, an island-wide event geared toward raising money for Dan Mills, an Isle of Palms firefighter who was severely injured in a motor vehicle accident while off duty in February. The event will be held on April 24 from 2 – 6 p.m. at the Public Safety Building on J.C. Long Blvd. and the group is currently looking for donations for the silent auction. Sandy Stone of Island Realty was kind enough to offer not only a weekend stay at one of his company’s vacation rentals, but he also contributed $1,000 toward the event to help print t-shirts for the fundraiser, which will also be on sale during the event. If you have a silent auction item you would like to contribute to the fundraiser, please contact Sonya Buckhannon at sonya@buckhannonbrothers.com or visit www.SupportFirefighterMills.com. For more information about the Support Dan Mills Fundraiser, see page [?????]

For more information about The Islanders, visit www.iopislanders.com.

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