May 01 2017

Sullivan’s Island Town Council Addresses Changes To The Historic Design Review Process

By Amy Mercer, Island Eye News Editor

The Town council meeting opened with public comments from Bill Harwell who has lived on the Island for 27 years, and is frustrated with traffic and parking on Ion at Station 17.

It’s a narrow street and there is nowhere to pull over,” said Harwell who is “sick and worried that something will happen to my young children.” The mayor promised the Public Safety committee would look into this issue.

The next item on the agenda was an ordinance to amend zoning regulations regarding the Historic Design Review Process. When residents want to renovate a historic home they must apply for a “certificate of appropriateness,” which is granted by the town’s Design Review Board (DRB). About 275-300 homes island-wide with an additional 100 historical military-type structures and sites identified on the island are classified as historic.

A historical resources map can be found on the Town’s website at A historic property is defined as having relative importance in history. “Is the building a nationally significant resource — a rare survivor or the work of a master architect or craftsman? Did an important event take place in it? National Historic Landmarks, designated for their “exceptional significance in American history,” or many buildings individually listed in the National Register often warrant Preservation or Restoration. Buildings that contribute to the significance of a historic district but are not individually listed in the National Register more frequently undergo Rehabilitation for a compatible new use.

Zoning Administrator Joe Henderson explained that the ordinance references strategies for renovations that will make the process more consistent. “Over the years the town has realized a more holistic approach is needed when considering work treatments to historic homes.

In other words, it is possible that any given historic project being reviewed by the DRB could include all four treatments: preservation, rehabilitation, restoration and reconstruction.”

Henderson said the main goal of the proposed change is to provide staff, the DRB and property owners with a set of standards and guidelines that are used throughout the course of any historic projects. “The nature of the project informs whether preservation, rehabilitation, restoration or reconstruction techniques are employed, the Board simply refers to the guidelines within the applicable chapter.”

The Planning Commission believes the current ordinance language is inadequate due to its reference of only the rehabilitation treatment for historic preservation. The Planning Commission has studied, discussed and received public feedback related to historic design review process during regular Commission meetings between September 14, 2016 and February 8, 2017. The proposed amendment includes the entire title of the Secretary of the Interior’s guidelines and now references all four preservation strategies for historic buildings. This text change will provide clarity and consistency when town staff and DRB review historic projects. On March 8, the Planning Commission held a public hearing for the text amendment and recommended unanimous approval. The four treatment approaches are Preservation, Rehabilitation, Restoration and Reconstruction.

The first reading was unanimously approved. The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing at its regular meeting on Wednesday, May 10, at 6 p.m. to review potential zoning ordinance text amendments addressing the elevation of historic homes and properties in the residential and community commercial districts. The public is encouraged to attend and share comments.

The town recently earned the title of “Tree City USA.” Part of this award includes the designation of an official Arbor Day, a plaque, and street signage. The mayor then proclaimed Thursday, April 27 as National Arbor Day for the town of Sullivan’s Island.

The proclamation encourages all residents to “plant and care for trees to gladden the heart and promote the well-being of this and future generations.” The first annual Arbor Day celebration was held in conjunction with the farmers’ market.

The mayor proclaimed May 14 – 20 as National Police Week to commemorate and “honor the service and sacrifice of those law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty while protecting our communities and safeguarding our democracy.”

Jeff Jackson of Lowcountry Roots updated council on Accreted Land invasive plant management. He said they have removed approximately 3,300 plants at Station 16 and are working on bamboo removal on the mound. Jackson reported that a lot of miscellaneous trees have been dying due to the rain and salt and that he has placed a rain gauge to collect data.

At Battery Logan there is an invasive plant seed “Elaeagnus” that the whole eastern U.S. Is battling and should be removed according to Jackson.

Town Administrator Andy Benke reported on several construction projects in the Town Hall and Police Station building. The architect and contractor continue to work through the punch list that includes the resolution of HVAC and VAC noise in council chambers. Benke said the SCDOT have begun the paving and resurfacing and that the work is completed from Jasper to Breach Inlet.

Chair of the Recreation Committee, Sarah Church, reported that the farmers market was “going strong” and experiencing record sales.

The Island Club has changed dramatically with the work that has been done and looks great, according to Church. Susan Middaugh reminded council of the April 20 event at Battery Gadsden with author and island resident, Josephine Humphreys.

Councilmember and Public Facilities chair Bachman Smith was not in attendance so Andy Benke reported that the town has been exploring options to relieve stormwater that collects in the area of Station 18 and Atlantic Avenue. He said one option is to add a submersible pump in the collection basin at Station 18.

In order to move the water to the outfall, it will be necessary to pump from the basin into the force main installed by SCE&G circa 2008. Coordination of pump cycles is necessary between the Town engineer and the SCE&G engineer for this project. In addition to this short-term fix, the Town has also applied for FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program assistance under a Presidential declaration following the October 2015 rain disaster that will allow relief in this area and condition survey of the entire island.”

Benke also reported that Charleston County recently requested local jurisdictions to provide a list of suitable projects for the FY2018 County Transportation Committee funds. Previous projects on Sullivan’s Island have included stormwater improvements, sidewalk installation and the like. Approximately seven crosswalks on the SCDOT streets on Sullivan’s have extreme wear to the point lines are no longer visible to motorists. Re-striping the pedestrian crossing areas would be an appropriate project for the funding.

The Land Use and Natural Resources and Administration committees reported on the causeway palmetto tree planting from the Ben Sawyer Bridge to the SI entrance sign. Howard said funds were set aside in the Tree Fund (when trees are removed residents pay into the fund for replanting. The fund currently has $57,000). The trees will be planted 14 to 16 feet off the right-away to mimic the planting on the Mt. Pleasant side of the bridge. Tree Commission will review the request.

The Hon. Frank Cornely was sworn in as the Town’s Associate Municipal Judge at the by Hon. Larry Duffy and the meeting adjourned for an Executive Session.

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