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Jun 09 2016

Letter To The Editor: Killing The Golden Goose

Dear Editor,

Years ago, “Naval Proceedings” magazine, always found in the wardrooms of US Navy ships, dedicated the last page of each edition to a section entitled “Nobody Asked Me, But…”. It provided an opportunity for those not in the Navy’s leadership hierarchy to comment on problems they felt important, with the hope that the leadership would take note and somehow address the issue.

I’d like to borrow on that venue relative to Sullivan’s Island, its residents, and the Town leadership. So, nobody asked me, but I think we have a major problem on Sullivan’s Island; let me explain.

The Town’s 2013 Comprehensive Plan makes clear the Town’s intent to preserve the Island’s historical and architectural character, and its residential atmosphere. There are words like: “informality”; “openness of landscape”; “family oriented in scale and nature”; “maintain eclectic nature”; “respectful of traditional mass, height, scale, and proportionality to lot size”; “neighborhood compatibility”… you get the idea. Those words might conjure up some differences of opinion in vision, but I think most would agree, in short, the vision for the Island is one of progress, yet preservation and maintenance of “what got us here”, not significant change. But, I am seeing significant change in our neighborhoods.

What I too often see are massive houses being built totally out of scale to the lot size and neighborhood. I see the “preservation” of historical cottages by building complexes overwhelming the cottages and neighbors’ houses. And, I see the excessive use of what’s called “pervious” structure that is, to the eye, often not much more than masqueraded asphalt. Then, of course there are pools, pool houses, gazebos, and anything else that can be added, not leaving a single blade of grass standing not required by law. Bigger is not always better and anything worth doing is rarely worth overdoing.

The end result is often counter to the vision described in the paragraph above, at least the way I see it.

To be sure, the Town staff and the Design Review Board dutifully apply applicable building ordinances. But I contend that if those ordinances are rendering some of the building complexes we’ve recently seen built and are currently being built on the Island, they desperately need review. Indeed, it seems every house torn down on the Island has a sign saying “variance applied for;” if there are that many variances, there’s a problem somewhere.

The argument against reining in these massive houses will likely center on “decreased property values.” Point taken, most everybody cares about their property values. But keep in mind, the more important value is the preservation of the Island itself and our stewardship for future generations. The major threat to our property values is in “killing the goose that has been laying the golden eggs.”

So, nobody asked me if I thought the building ordinances were too generous and needed review, and they won’t ask you either. But, if you share these observations and concerns, why not contact our very willing-tolisten Town Council and let’s see if something can be done?

J.D. Winchester

Sullivan’s Island

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