By Katy Calloway, The Island Eye News Editor
Photos by Steve Rosamilia
The City of Isle of Palms hosted a series of presentations at the Marina Open House event on Thursday, Sept. 28. The first of the three presentations on the Isle of Palms Marina Enhancement and Community Revitalization plan given by Kirby Marshall of Applied Technology and Management, the design firm contracted by the City to redesign the marina, was attended by about thirty residents, all eager to see the scale model that depicts what the improvements will look like. Carrying gift bags courtesy of the Isle of Palms Marina Outpost, and vouchers for free ice cream and shrimp cocktails from the Marina Market, attendees were encouraged to walk the docks, speak with business owners and envision the site with the proposed improvements. Additional renderings of the plan were located throughout the marina.
Marshall, who has been working on the project for years, said that most of the lessees were happy with the proposed changes, stating, “there has been a lot of give and take.” For example, Tidal Wave Watersports, whose growing business has been the target of criticism by neighboring properties, would be relocated in the new plan, to appease residents.
Morgan Creek Grill would be giving up some of its parking spaces, and agreed to have staff park offsite and be shuttled to the restaurant.
Parking was on several residents minds and Marshall outlined the new plan will accommodate 150 cars, 57 truck trailers, and 44 golf carts, a major increase from the current 11 golf cart spaces. Resident Ken McDowell asked if the City was encouraging more golf cart traffic by adding more spaces. “We’re just accommodating what’s already there,” replied Marshall.
City Administrator Linda Tucker was on hand to assist with questions and encourage feedback from residents. Comment cards sat on a table along with copies of the referendum, which will be voted on next month. Those in attendance were already familiar with $5.5 million referendum proposal and few appeared to be submitting written concerns, choosing instead to speak up.
Several residents were concerned with the public kayak launch that they felt was inadequately located on the new plan, farthest from the parking lot, which means kayakers will have to cart their boats a greater distance. “Why can’t we launch at the boat ramp, “ asked Ken McDowell, “you’re saying I have to carry my kayak 100 yards to launch it?”
Marshall explained that the commercial activity near the boat launch created a safety hazard for non-motorized boats. Others expressed concern that the new launch location was inadequate, siting a siltation issue, which created a, “very shallow area even for kayaking launching.”
Resident Chris Marquez asked what is the unique benefit of these changes to island residents. “There’s no exclusive IOP resident access, but residents are shouldering the expense?” The proposed marina enhancements will be paid for through revenues generated by tourism (ATAX) and the marina itself. Asked if the access fees will increase, Tucker explained that it is up to City Council to determine and set access fees and there has been no proposed fee change at this time.
“That seems like a lot of money for an operation that doesn’t provide much revenue,” concluded Marquez.
Voters will decide Nov. 7 if the plan will move forward. Those in attendance seemed to agree that the marina needs improvement, with the devil being in the details. “”We’ve been working on this for over two years,” explained Marshall, “I think we’ve got it down to the best proposal we can make,” adding that even after the vote, there will be opportunity to tweak details, up until they break ground.