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.