By Emma Woodham, Staff Writer for The Island Eye News
Only a handful of seats were left in the council chambers by the time the regularly scheduled Isle of Palms City Council meeting began. Year-round managed beach parking was the topic that most residents present were concerned with. Following the invocation and pledge of allegiance, Mayor Jimmy Carroll asked for citizens’ comments.
Katherine Bane with the East Cooper Land Trust spoke briefly, offering ways for the city and other municipalities to partner with the non-profit organization to help preserve land. Rusty Streetman, a resident of Palm Blvd., feels that the island no longer has much of an off-season.
He also believes the proposed parallel parking on Palm Blvd. will decrease non-resident parking because it will send more people down the side streets in search of parking. Scott Pierce, a resident of 9th Ave., approved of the parking plan. He suggested that the city issue parking passes for residents to provide to their guests. Several other residents of the island expressed their desire for council to approve the yearround managed parking plan but asked members to take the plan one step further, making the plan island-wide.
After the residents spoke, Mayor Carroll asked Councilmember Jimmy Ward to give the report on the Ways & Means Committee. Ward stated that Public Safety had made recommendations for enforcement of the managed beach parking year-round, for parallel parking on both sides of Palm Blvd. between 21st and 41st Aves., and for prohibition of trailer parking—resident and non-resident—on Waterway Blvd. Motions were made to approve as well as the award of a sole source contract to Stantec, a firm who will revise the parking plan and submit it to SCDOT. Administrator Tucker explained that the city has worked with Stantec previously and so the company already has a lot of the necessary data for the managed beach parking and would be able to work the most quickly. All members of council approved the contract award for Stantec.
When discussing the approval of year-round managed beach parking, Councilmember Randy Bell stated he wanted to move forward with this plan because it is time to make some changes. Mayor Carroll added that he focused on this issue during the election and, while he thinks that the plan can be fine-tuned in the future, he also wanted it to move forward. Councilmember Carol Rice felt that the plan was a bit heavy-handed, especially during some of the off-season months. Rice was concerned with the enforcement and the effect that the plan might have on guests of residents. The motion passed 8-1 with Councilmember Rice the only dissenting vote.
Prohibiting trailer parking on Waterway Blvd. was a topic of heated discussion among council. Councilmember Bell stated that he believes the trailer parking is a public safety issue, primarily because many of the trailers often either block a portion of the walking path on Waterway, or stick out into the road. Councilmember Ryan Buckhannon asked if parking along 41st Ave. up to Frank Sotille Lane would still be allowed. He then asked why the city couldn’t require all boats and vehicles to be off the road if parked on Waterway and 41st. He feels that island residents may find themselves without anywhere to park when they visit the marina. Councilmember Bell does not feel that there is sufficient room to park trailers on Waterway.
“The real estate doesn’t exist to park trailers on Waterway. There’s not room to hardly park a car there. But there is room on 41st up to Frank Sottile to park trailers,” Bell said.
Buckhannon said he would like to see both areas along Waterway and 41st Ave. turned into resident-only parking. He proposed this as an amendment to the recommendation from Public Safety. Councilmember Bell felt that the amendment was really a completely different suggestion. Several council members were in favor of resident-only parking along Waterway because many island residents own boats.
Ultimately, Councilmember Bell said that trailer parking— resident or non-resident—is a public safety issue and should not be allowed. Councilmember Smith agreed with him that trailers sticking out into the road are a hazard. She made the motion that 41st up to Frank Sotille be residential parking only. The resulting decision that parking along 41st Ave. would be strictly residential and that all trailer parking along Waterway would be prohibited, passed. A motion was also made that would permit parallel-parking only on both sides of Palm Blvd., and it passed unanimously.
Ways & Means discussed changing the kiosks in the Municipal Parking Lots to $1 per hour. This would likely help out some of the merchants downtown, and the motion passed unanimously.
It was proposed that the contract with the hotel be amended so that guests of the hotel who use the parking lot still be charged $10 a day instead of an hourly charge. Parking in the lot is monitored. All members of the council approved this motion.
Councilmember Smith presented the report from the Public Safety Committee, stating that several citizens had commented about the issues with construction noise and delivery trucks on the island. Some residents have also expressed concern about the dogs visiting the Isle of Palms dog park and whether or not these dogs are properly vaccinated. The biggest issue that the Public Safety Committee discussed was consideration of recommended changes to reduce the coyote population on the island, a problem that has been the topic of discussion at many council meetings. The recommendation consisted of three main points: first, that the city abandon its current fee structure for trapping coyotes and pay on a per-coyote basis, secondly, the city staff provide a plan for hunting as legal and lethal means of immediately reducing the coyote population, and thirdly that the city adopt a comprehensive coyote management plan. Motions were made to approve all three sections of this recommendation.
“We can’t trap our way out of this problem,” Councilmember Bell said.
Bell also noted that the plan to potentially hunt coyotes is not something the city will be rushing into, but he feels that the city needs to be prepared if that course of action is decided. He doesn’t want the island to panic over the coyote issue. He believes that the plan needs some revisions, and it was ultimately determined that the plan should be sent back to the Public Safety committee for further review.
Councilmember Ted Kinghorn reported from the Public Works Committee and said it recommends hiring a full-time maintenance facilities supervisor and a part-time administrative assistant. They will submit this recommendation to the Ways & Means Committee.
Councilmember Buckhannon reported from the Recreation Committee meeting, pointing out that the Annual IOP Yard Sale will be on April 14 with over fifty booths. The 2018 Farmers Market details are still being discussed, and the event is a work-in-progress. Councilmember Sandy Ferencz, Chairman of the Personnel Committee, informed council that the updates to the employee handbook have been approved. She added that the committee will be reviewing the names and responsibilities of standing committees. They hope to revise the code and determine if the committees that the city currently has are sufficient. They are also looking at the personnel needed for the public works department and whether or not fixed-cost salaried positions are necessary or if the work can be outsourced. It was also determined that performance reviews need to be conducted more frequently than annually, but the committee didn’t determine how often. In conclusion, the committee approved the city administrator’s recommendation to name the interim police chief as Captain Usry since the standing chief is retiring. A motion was made, and all members of council were in favor.
The Real Property Committee meeting report was given by Councilmember Bell, and he stated that the owner of Morgan Creek Grill requested that the docks that had been removed from their lease be returned to the restaurant. The committee decided to return the docks to Morgan Creek Grill for this season only and this will be passed by ordinance, according to the city administrator. Several citizens also spoke to the committee about the condition of the docks at the Marina, insisting that the docks need replacing rather than repairing. The city will be drafting a proposal to have an examination of the work needed.
The existing issues with the IOP Marina are still being discussed, despite the referendum that failed to pass in the recent election. Charleston County property taxes have also been assessed for the Marina, and the cost will be divided up among the tenants, as per their leases.
Mayor Carroll presented the second reading of Ordinance 2017-07, which relates to the minimum elevation requirements for all new residential and nonresidential construction. It was suggested that a public hearing be held for this issue. Many residents were concerned about how this would affect older homes, and the Planning Commission has made two recommendations for homes that are compliant with the new FEMA standards but not the city’s proposed standard. The first is that these houses should not have the fifty-percent rule imposed on them, and Councilmember Bell clarified that the fifty-percent rule means that if a resident were to spend more than half the value of the home over a five year period, the home must meet the proposed fourteen-foot elevation requirement. The second change would apply to all homes below the current requirement and would change the tracking period from five years to one year. A motion was made to amend the ordinance based on these two suggested changes. Councilmember Buckhannon was not in favor of the change from five years to one year. Mayor Carroll asked what the city can do to help the long-term residents who may want to update their homes but don’t want to raise the elevation. Buckhannon made a motion to amend the amendment and abolish the time period, and it passed 5-4. The original motion to accept the amendments from the Planning Commission passed unanimously, and this will move forward to a public hearing.
A motion was made to waive the reading of Ordinance 2018- 04, regulating hours that piledrivers and other apparatus with loud and disturbing noises could be used. Councilmember Bell made a motion to amend the bill by following the Wild Dunes plan, which states that all noisy work can begin after 7:30 a.m. on weekdays and after 9:00 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. No Sunday exterior work would be allowed.
Councilmember Smith pointed out that many of these contractors want to start work early due to less traffic early in the morning. The amendment to adopt the Wild Dunes plan passed with only one opposed. Second reading of this will take place in April.
The next Isle of Palms City Council meeting will be on Tuesday, April 24 at 6 p.m.