By Emma Woodham, Staff Writer for Island Eye News
Prior to the regularly scheduled meeting of the Isle of Palms City Council, a vote was called for the approval of the city administrator to execute certain, undisclosed settlement agreements as recommended by the City’s litigation attorneys. This would authorize the city administrator and litigation attorneys to continue with settlement negotiations related to pending claims. The motion passed unanimously. In a brief Public Hearing, Mayor Jimmy Carroll addressed the second reading of an amendment to Ordinance 2017-07 which relates to flood damage prevention and requires a definition for the reference datum to be used for the base flood elevation shown on the flood insurance rate maps. It would mandate a minimum elevation for future commercial and non-commercial construction. Douglas Kerr, Director of Building, Planning and Zoning briefly explained the amendment stating that it is in anticipation of new Federal Emergency Management Agency flood maps. FEMA has notified the City that new flood maps are coming soon, and setting a minimum elevation requirement for new construction is their latest recommendation. Mayor Carroll presented the second reading of an amendment to Ordinance 2017-09, which stated that all new construction or substantial improvements be connected to the public sewer when the sewer line is within one hundred-and-fifty feet of the property, and to reduce the lot coverage and floor area coverage requirements for lots with septic tanks. The changes to the ordinance would require anyone building a new home or spending more than half the value of their current home on improvements would have to extend the line and connect, if a sewer line is within one hundred-and-fifty feet of the home. It also addresses the size of the house that can be built and tied into the sewer system and regulates structure size in relation to lot size.
“The rationale for that is that these septic systems need space to operate and the larger the house, the more waste that you’d be trying to process through that system,” Kerr said. Public comments included Paula Urbano’s thoughts about the new flood maps. If the new flood maps may eliminate some homes from flood zones, she feels that there should not be an elevation requirement for the entire City. Jim Raih, another resident, has spent his career dealing with DHEC, sewer, and zoning. Though he believes the new flood maps will save him money on insurance because he lives in a third-row home, he stated, “I think it’s dangerous when a city or a municipality or a government entity decides they know more than FEMA.” David Cohen discussed the amendment related to sewer systems. He has lived with an on-site sewer system, and he believes that residents should have a choice. In his opinion, he would not want his neighbors’ sewage potentially backing up into his own house if he was tied into the main line. Mr. Cohen also feels that the elevation of the house should be the homeowner’s decision and that FEMA’s recommended heights should be taken into consideration. When the Public Hearing concluded, Mayor Carroll called the regular Council meeting to order. Following the invocation and pledge of allegiance, Jimmy Ward was nominated as mayor pro-tem, and the motion carried unanimously. Several new city employees were sworn in, and Mayor Carroll opened the floor to citizens’ comments. A representative from HGTV spoke via phone seeking approval to film an episode of Beachfront Bargain Renovation on the island. HGTV will be working with a client who will explore homes available on IOP and Goat Island, and they will need to get shots of the town and perhaps interview a few residents. Only a small crew will come to IOP, and the impact of the production should be relatively low. Mayor Carroll recalled that HGTV has worked on the island before and never remembers noticing their presence. A motion was made to approve the request from HGTV, and it was approved unanimously. Bob Miller, representing the Wild Dunes & IOP Coyote Control Coalition, believes that a more aggressive strategy is needed to resolve the growing coyote population.
The Coalition is committed to working with the City Council and the Wild Dunes Community Association Board, and they have obtained over 250 signatures from residents who also support a more aggressive strategy. Mr. Miller says his group does not believe that coexistence with the coyote is possible, and they feel that the coyotes are becoming more aggressive towards pets and humans. Judy Gogle, also a member of the Coyote Control Coalition, spoke about another resident who lost her dog to a coyote attack four years ago. She believes that people are starting to fear the coyotes, and she read several testimonies from residents who have had encounters with coyotes, including a woman who had five coyotes who came into her backyard with the obvious intent of attacking her dog. Ms. Gogle challenged Council to act before the coyote population increases even more.
Adrienne Whaley read an email that she wrote to Council regarding construction work hours. She has lived next door to a construction site for over a year, and the working hours are often 7 a.m.-7 p.m., seven days a week. Ms. Whaley did not feel comfortable allowing her son to play outside when she did not know the background of the workers on the site next door, nor was she able to enjoy her back yard during the summer because of excessive noise. She feels that the city needs to limit the hours worked each day and prohibit construction work on Sundays. Curtis Kendall then addressed the same issue. Mayor Carroll thanked everyone for their comments and reminded those present of the Public Forum coming up on Feb. 1 at 5:30pm at the IOP Rec Center and the Coyote Expo that will be at the Rec Center on Feb. 22. He encouraged everyone to attend.
Administrator Tucker added that noise ordinance violations will be discussed at the next Public Safety committee meeting. Councilmember Jimmy Ward reported from the Ways and Means Committee that Councilmember Randy Bell was elected to serve as Vice Chairman. Businesses licenses are due in a couple of months, and cash on hand is approximately $25 million, but a portion of that is allocated to the beach re-nourishment. Hospitality tax collected this year was slightly higher than expected. A recommendation to award a contract to Martin & Sons Contracting for $250,000 for the IOP Marina Bulkhead rehabilitation was presented to Council. The motion passed unanimously. The Palms Hotel is asking to use the municipal parking lot for guests and employees. Administrator Tucker noted that just a few minutes prior to the beginning of the meeting, the Palms Hotel sent an email to all councilmembers, but she doubted that everyone had a chance to read it. Mayor Carroll noted that the City made several attempts to add this to the agenda earlier in the week, and Councilmember Ward suggested the issue be addressed at a later date. Councilmember Susan Hill Smith reported from the Public Safety Committee meeting that SCDOT will do some microsurfacing on the island sometime in the spring, but it has not been scheduled yet. The City hopes that SCDOT will abstain from doing the roadwork during spring break.
Councilmember Smith noted that the fire department helped untangle a dolphin from a crab pot line last month, and the police department reported 33 coyote sightings on the island in December. The Public Safety Committee voted to eliminate all nonvehicular overnight parking at any city property and Councilmember Smith made a motion that the City attorney be asked to draft an amendment to the ordinance. This ordinance would be aimed at boat and other equipment parking in the spots beside the Rec Center. Administrator Tucker noted that some City employees leave their cars parked overnight while they are out of town, and she didn’t want to see any employees in violation of the new ordinance. Councilmember Ryan Buckhannon stated that ordinances are already in place to prevent this, but he doesn’t believe that they are being properly enforced. He also said the City should not spot-zone for certain streets or areas, it should be an islandwide change. Councilmember Bell said that the Public Safety Committee did not discuss any spot-zoning and he agrees with Councilmember Buckhannon. He thinks that the City and Public Safety committee need to be very thorough in the planning of this change. Councilmember Ted Kinghorn recommended that Councilmember Bell bring a comprehensive plan to the council. Administrator Tucker gave a report on Public Works. Because the committee will not have a full, nine-member council until after the elections, no vote was taken for chairman or vice chairman. The same situation arose for the Recreation, Personnel, and Real Property Committees. In a review of the Public Works meeting, it was noted that Shep Enterprises—the contractor that helps keep the beach clean—is not being sold, so the City will continue to work with Mr. Shep for the next year. Drainage and ditch erosion issues on 32nd Ave. were discussed, along with the impacts it has on some private property. David Stevens of Civil Site Engineering, the company who is studying the issue, reported that initially the Corps of Engineers was going to rule that ditch as their jurisdiction.
However, since then, the Corps has stated that they may not consider it jurisdictional wetlands after all, which should ease the process. Lastly, the demands on the Public Works team has become too great for the number of employees on staff and additional team members may need to be hired, if it can be worked into the budget. Administrator Tucker gave a report from the Recreation Committee, and noted that Doggie Day is coming up at the Rec Center on Feb. 10 and dog licenses will be available for sale. Front Beach Fest is Mar. 3, the Annual Easter Egg Hunt on Mar. 31, and the Annual Yard Sale on April 14. The Personnel Committee met, and currently the only vacancy is a part-time animal control officer. The city is starting to recruit beach services officers. “These are good jobs that sometimes morph into other positions in the city,” Administrator Tucker said. It was suggested that Veterans Day be observed as a City holiday rather than the departments voting and selecting a floating holiday. The motion was passed unanimously. In the Real Property Committee meeting, several Marina tenants made comments. Jay Clark stated his desire to renegotiate a longer term for his lease, requested that the City fund the replacement of the walk-in cooler, and further requested assistance for some relief with parking at the Marina site. The Committee will address these items in the coming meetings.
Michael Fiem of Tidalwave Watersports also spoke to the Committee, advocating to have a Front Beach location with the purpose of establishing one central location for visitors to book other excursions. His thought is that if visitors park at Front Beach, book excursions, and are shuttled to the Marina, it will cut down on overflow parking at the Marina. A motion was made to look at the exact definition of an RV in and order to regulate such parking island-wide because it has been an issue, particularly at the Marina. Councilmember Bell noted that this is not related to private property but City property, particularly spaces at the Marina and similar properties. Councilmember Kinghorn did not see how something like an Airstream was really that different from a boat because many people live on the boats they have at the Marina. “What’s the difference if you have a thirty-foot RV and somebody staying in it and someone staying in a watercraft forty feet away? There are transient boats there. What’s the difference between people staying on their boats or on the land?” Councilmember Kinghorn said. The council voted to approve the motion to seek a specific definition of what constitutes an RV so that they can discuss the matter further in coming meetings.
Administrator Tucker suggested Council defer the second reading of the proposed amendment to Ordinance 2017- 07 following the numerous citizens’ comments regarding the matter, and the council agreed that this was the best option. It was noted that this amendment will not affect the reduction on insurance premiums that some residents may be set to benefit from. The flood zone changes are a separate matter from raising the height requirement for elevation of new structures. The city hopes that the elevation height change will be approved because it will make the area more resilient to flooding and might create less cleanup after storms. Mayor Carroll also voted to defer items related to the sewer system until the February meeting. The last order of business was to pass a resolution for the City to join the federal litigation to challenge seismic testing and oil drilling in the Atlantic coastal waters. Other coastal communities in the area are joining the suit, and Mayor Carroll said the resolution will not incur a cost to the City. All members of the council were in favor.
The next meeting of the IOP City Council will be Feb. 27 at 6 p.m.