Oct 20 2012

Sullivan’s Island Town Council Responds to Lawsuit

Provided by Mike Perkis

Three Sullivan’s Island residents who signed a petition last year filed suit today against the Town of Sullivan’s Island. The suit asks the court to require the Town to adopt the ordinance proposed by their petition or conduct a referendum to have the voters approve or reject it

Attorney Rutledge Young III filed the suit in state court on behalf of Martha Smith and William and Kathleen Post, three Sullivan’s Island residents who live near the historical school site.

The petition sought to have the Town adopt ordinances that would require the plans for the new school to be reviewed by the Town’s Design Review Board and would prohibit the Town from entering a lease with the School District for the school site if the lease allowed a building larger than the original school. The petition requested a referendum on these two issues if Town Council did not adopt the requested ordinance.

According to the attorneys representing the Town, the law of South Carolina does not authorize the process of the petition and referendum invoked by these residents to dictate zoning and administrative matters such as these nor to force a local government to deviate from statewide standards such as those specifying required school facilities. They have also advised the Town the process cannot be used to insist that the Town breach a valid lease.

Attorney Trenholm Walker noted the Town Council attempted in February 2012 to resolve this matter by getting a judicial review. Unfortunately, none of the members of the group behind the petition would accept service for the group.

Six of the seven council members of the Town have continuously expressed their unwavering commitment to the construction of the new elementary school. The elementary school has been a vital part of the community since the 1950s. These council members are confident that the law supports their actions and that a ruling will be issued in favor of the Town in the lawsuit.

The former school building was closed along with several others around the County based on concerns about their ability to withstand an earthquake. The building was constructed more than 50 years ago. Measured against today’s standards and needs it was obsolete and undersized. The School District had to use trailers around the building to accommodate the number of students attending the elementary school. The closure and later demolition of the building displaced 412 students.

The new school facility planned by the School District will conform to current and foreseeable futures standards for elementary schools. It will have adequately sized classrooms and recreational facilities, and will be technologically up to date. This is extremely important as our children compete against students from around the world.

Putting aside the legalities of the request, the Town considers the request for design review to be moot. Town council conducted numerous public sessions working in conjunction with the School District to refine the design. Council had also held the necessary three readings approving the new lease with the School District before being presented with the petition.

Council is greatly supportive of the new school. As designed and planned, it will be a first-class facility that will provide its students with state of the art features, giving them a superb educational opportunity.

Town Council on October18, 2011 executed a lease agreement between the Town and the Charleston County School District. This lease provided Town oversight of the design for the new building and placed over 7acres of maritime forest acreage under Town protection.

Over the past several years there have been over 40 public meetings, six specific design committee meetings and three public charettes to gather input on the design. Many residents, faculty, students’ local builders, architects and the Historic Charleston Foundation have provided substantial feedback to the eventually approved design.

For over 55 years this community has strongly supported Sullivan’s Island Elementary School at its current oceanfront site. It is one of the top elementary schools in the State and known for providing excellent educational opportunities for children through out the East Cooper area.

This processed has been reviewed for many years and the focus needs to be brought back to the most important constituents – the children. There are 420 children presently housed in temporary space in an antiquated building. The individuals filing this action have not participated in the many opportunities to provide substantive input and the only reasonable conclusion for this last minute action is to delay the rebuilding.



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    • Skip Scarpa on October 20, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    Blah, blah, blah. Lets vote. We will see if the school board is as wiling to risk millions in tax dollars by awarding a contract as sullivans island town council is. Representative government and fiscal responsibility. What a joke. Not even the school board is that wreckless, are they?

    • Sarah Church on October 20, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    Thank you for this great article Mike Perkis! Construction is long overdue for SIES. The residents of Sullivan’s Island are so grateful that SI Town Council realizes the importance of rebuilding the school. I’m glad you brought up the fact that the school is temporarily housed in an inadequate space that is no more safe than the old SIES. I went to an Open House for my daughter’s class and was shocked by the classroom’s small size. The bookshelves hit me in the back when I sat at her desk. It is time for the children of SIES to have a space that is of the same high quality as the education they are receiving. Generations of families will feel the positive impact of this outstanding school. Thank you Town Council for your dedication and integrity, even in the face of some very ill-willed opposition.

    • Sue Brahen on October 20, 2012 at 7:43 pm

    WeI totally respect our town council’s tenacity in standing up for what is right for our town and our children. Thank you Mike Perkis, Jerry Kaynard, Hartley Cooper, Mary Jane Watson, Madeleine McGee, and Pat O’Neil.

    • Mary Gatch on October 21, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    A small group of residents have been trying to derail the reconstruction of SIES for over a year. Suddenly, most of these individuals are OK with the rebuilding of the school in the park. Previous concerns included costs (the park site will cost much more), traffic (the park site requires dissection of a neighborhood and a greater impact to our commercial district traffic), environmental impact (developing a school in the park and new structures on the previous site creates a much bigger environmental impact), water and sewer concerns (please .. the new school will have a lower water throughput than the old), surge and water drainage concerns (the new school will have a smaller impervious footprint and will be raised to allow for storm surges). I’ve really lost track of what the protest group represents, but the vast majority of Sullivan’s Island residents supports the rebuilding of the school as planned. Thank you town council and CCSD for standing strong and doing what is right for the future of our children!

    • Scott Kegel on October 22, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    Finally the courts will get to rule on the referendum issue.

    • Janie Ball on October 22, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    Well said…

    “The individuals filing this action have not participated in the many opportunities to provide substantive input and the only reasonable conclusion for this last minute action is to delay the rebuilding.”

    Thank you for cutting to the chase Mike Perkis!

    • Elise on November 4, 2012 at 10:17 am

    Informative article, exactly what I needed.

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