By Emma Woodham, The Island Eye News Staff Writer
On Tuesday, Aug. 22, the Sullivan’s Island Town Council met for its regularly scheduled meeting. After the Pledge of Allegiance and the invocation, Mayor Pat O’Neil opened the floor to citizens’ comments.
Norman Khoury, a resident of I’on Ave., addressed the proposed changes to the Maritime Forest Transition Zone, which were discussed at the most recent Land & Natural Resources Committee meeting. Khoury asked that council bring in experts to discuss the proposed changes and host public meetings for discussion. Susan Middaugh, a resident of Raven Dr., told council that she believes the transition plan needs to allow for a flexible sight approach and remarked on the beauty of the natural dunes. She wants to make sure that all of the dunes are preserved. Julia Khoury, also a resident of I’on Ave., is worried about the use of certain machines clearing foliage from the transition area because she isn’t sure how the dunes will handle it.
One island resident pointed out that the Sullivan’s Island Fire Department is a Class One department, which is significant because it can help homeowners get a discount on their insurance. Another resident asked Council to consider putting a bike rack at Station 30. Jen Leitch of Atlantic Ave. encouraged council to consider a plastic bag ban on the island and provided different facts about the amount of plastic currently in our oceans.
“Our ocean is turning into plastic soup,” Leitch said.
Following the citizens’ comments, Joe Williams and Harold Smith of Raftelis Inc. presented the 2018 Water & Sewer Rate Study. They discussed a change in rate structure for the water and sewer billing that would result in a rate reduction for close to ninety percent of the island residents. This new approach would involve moving from a meter-size rate structure to a Residential Equivalent Unit (REU) structure.
Council adjourned into Executive Session to receive legal advice on Lassoe V. Town of Sullivan’s Island. When they returned, they approved the minutes from the previous meeting. Mayor O’Neil presented the third reading of Ordinance 2018-04, which relates to the issuance and sale of bonds. This ordinance is how the council will fund the updates to the Water Treatment Facility. The third reading was approved unanimously. Next, Mayor O’Neil presented the first reading, by title only, of Ordinance 2018- 05 which would amend town ordinances by adding a new section to reading as follows: Section 14-35 Access Easement Agreement and Restrictive Covenant with Ward V.B. Lassoe. All members of the council voted to approve the first reading except for Councilmember Tim Reese who abstained from voting because of a conflict of interest. Lastly, council approved a resolution to approve financing terms with BB&T for the purchase of vehicles.
Mayor O’Neil had nothing new to report, but Town Administrator Andy Benke read a brief report from the Turtle Team about the slow nesting season on both Sullivan’s Island and Isle of Palms. He also stated that all the new signage for parking changes had been updated on Middle St. and noted the space this gives emergency vehicles when they need to respond to an urgent call.
In her report from the Land & Natural Resources Committee, Councilmember Rita Langley recommended amendments to the Transition Zone Management Plan, which addresses the protected land and vegetation between the private properties and beaches. According to Mayor O’Neil, the town was unable to implement the plan that was developed in 2016 because of litigation against the town, but council has now found a way to implement the plan, and they are reexamining the plan to see if any changes or alterations should be made. Some of the issues relate to what size trees should be removed and what size should be allowed to remain. Councilmember Mark Howard asked why council can’t implement the original plan. Councilmember Sarah Church thinks that another meeting should be held to discuss these changes so that more residents can attend and speak. Church feels that there needs to be much more discussion before a vote and Councilmember Bachman Smith agreed. Mayor O’Neil agreed that another meeting should be held to discuss the proposed changes.
Councilmember Langley also proposed that the town’s staff draw up a ban on the sale and distribution on single-use plastic bags on the island as well as plastic straws and Styrofoam containers. Councilmember Church voiced her full support for the motion, but Councilmember Reese asked if this meant that all these items would also be banned from being brought on the island or just sold.
The Town’s attorney suggested that staff drawing up the proposal use very careful language when wording the plan.
Councilmember Smith updated council on the Poe Ave. project, noting that the committee had received several bids for the project. The committee recommends that council accept RH Moore’s bid for the work. Mayor O’Neil pointed out that several members of council were just seeing the bid numbers for the first time, and he asked if the decision could be postponed for a short time. Ultimately, it was decided that a special meeting should be held before the next workshop meeting so that council can vote.
Replacing the fire truck was the main topic from the Public Safety committee, and Councilmember Chauncey Clark pointed out that the fire truck is at least two years overdue for being replaced. The proposal wasn’t included in the meeting packet, however, and Mayor O’Neil wasn’t comfortable voting on such a big-ticket item without all members of the council having seen a full breakdown of the cost.
Ultimately, the fire truck cost will also be voted on at the special meeting before the next workshop.
Councilmember Church didn’t have much to report from the Recreation Committee except that the Pickle Ball court is being used extensively and that she is hoping to start working on the bamboo garden project again soon.
The next meeting of council will be on Monday, Sept. 17 at 6 p.m