By Susan Hill Smith, Island Eye News Staff Writer
Photos by Steve Rosamilia
The town of Sullivan’s Island spent around $20,000 this summer to rehabilitate the battered boat landing at Station 26. When it re-opens in coming weeks, the landing will be protected by a new measure that suspends launches that involve motorized boats and trailers.
Sullivan’s Island Town Council voted 7-0 In favor of the measure, which was introduced at the council’s monthly meeting Aug. 16 by Councilmember Bachman Smith IV, chairman of the Public Facilities Committee.
“We have spent the money to rehabilitate this landing, and I for one think it would be unwise to allow the type of traffic that would take it right back to its previous state,” Smith said. “Not to mention the roadbed itself would be in much better shape if we didn’t have the trucks and boats trailering back and forth.”
The landing is uniquely positioned at the end of a wide roadway that extends into the marsh from Station 26, allowing easy access to a tidal creek.
Besides boaters, other visitors come out simply for sunsets and stunning views featuring the Ben Sawyer Bridge.
Use of the landing extends back at least to the 1920s, according to Town Administrator Andy Benke, who kept his first boat moored there in the 1960s, before he was able to drive a car.
“The Town kept it open for anyone to use as free public access to the water,” Benke explained later. “Until recently there has been no need to regulate the area.”
Over the past few years, larger and larger boats have been launched from the landing, doing extensive damage to the creek bank, he said, and the recent series of king tides has led to frequent flooding of the roadway. “It was important to protect the existing high ground of the road from further degradation.”
Raising the roadway over the past few weeks has involved adding layers of gravel, Bachman explained separately, and temporary silt fencing is currently in place to keep new gains from being washed away.
Bachman suggested that without the improvements and approved changes, use of the landing could have been lost for everyone. The town does not intend to restrict vehicle traffic or parking on the roadway but will install short thick posts at the entrance point to the water to stop vehicles from damaging the creek bed. Signs will explain the new restrictions.
Those who want to launch larger boats do have another option on the Island. For more than 55 years, the Sullivan’s Island Volunteer Fire and Rescue Squad has provided a boat landing on property it leases from the town at Station 9 and Osceola Avenue. The annual fee to use the Benke-Lowe Landing is $100 for Sullivan’s Island residents and $200 for non-residents. Proceeds help purchase rescue equipment.
Town Hall on track to open in late September
During his report, Benke updated council on the nearly completed construction of the new Town Hall, which has a target opening date of Monday, Sept. 26. “It’s a beehive of activity over there,” Benke said of the $3.9 million project, which is still on schedule and on budget. The 13,000-square-foot building situated between the Red Wood Fire Station and J. Marshall Stith Park, will also house the police department.
Mayor Pat O’Neil also took a moment to thank Benke and Mayor Pro Tem Chauncey Clark for “tremendous oversight of that whole project.”
Parking plan enforcement pushed down road
The contractor charged with overhauling signage for the town’s new parking regulations continues to have trouble getting enough posts. As a result, Benke said the town might hold off on enforcement of the plan until the start of 2017, which gives more time for public outreach and adjustments. The town didn’t receive approval for its plan from the S.C. Department of Transportation until the middle of June, and there were concerns about making changes mid-summer anyway.
Some feared that Sullivan’s Island would be “overrun” with more day-trippers due to new parking restrictions on Isle of Palms, but Benke doesn’t think that happened. “In general, I would say, for both islands, supply of spaces still exceeds demand.”
In other business, Town Council:
• Voted 6-1, with Clark opposed, to ask the Planning Commission to review historic design guidelines and the way they are incorporated in design
• Unanimously approved moving forward with the application process for Tree City USA designation
• Discussed developing tree-trimming regulations, common in other municipalities, and sent the initiative to committee for further development