By Laura Fogarty, Island Eye News Managing Editor
The Island Eye news asked our readers to submit their questions for the five candidates running for City Council. The response was an overwhelming abundance of input and for that, we thank you. Below are the first three in a series of six questions (compiled to represent the most citizens’ questions possible).
The candidates’ answers are reprinted unedited and in their entirety. The remaining three questions will be answered in our Oct. 11 issue.
- Isle of Palms has a mix of long term residents, short term rentals, second homes and day trippers. What kind of community are we trying to have here?
- Charleston County continues to grow. How do you feel the current council has handled the impact of the growth on Isle of Palms? What would you suggest?
- What is your plan and vision for the Isle of Palms marina?
- One of the most enchanting parts about the island is its unique makeup, with a tight-knit family community coexisting along a renowned vacation destination. BOND Without each other, we would simply not be what we are. The tourism industry on the island brings a substantial amount of our governmental income, employs a large portion of our workforce and attracts a flourishing economy of small businesses and restaurants. All that said, it is, without a doubt, a balancing act that requires constant attention and adaptation to accommodate a healthy and amicable relationship. As a mother of (almost) two small children, I believe that preserving a safe and family-forward residential life is the first priority, requiring us to enforce laws and regulations, especially in our high season. Tax-paying residents and homeowners should have special privileges, such as free parking, first priority in recreation activities and other resident-only perks. Short-term renters should be celebrated for the amount of money they spend on the island, yet, also, regulated to maintain a peaceful residential community. Daytrippers should be allowed to come and share the beach, but I believe they should have to pay a small fee to park anywhere on the island, unless as guests to residents. Their impact is not free to the beach and all visitors should have invested interest when visiting.
- I believe that council has done a great job at preserving the small-town, “Mayberry” feel of the island, despite rapid growth in the greater area. I think the biggest impact for us as an island is the influx of day-trippers and day-tourists. I believe that we need to do a better job at educating our visitors with a full fledged anti-litter campaign- something that I’ve been personally working on along with the IOP Cleanup Crew. While I think that some regulations have a place on the beach, more importantly, we need to educate and enforce our current laws, especially during high season. I also believe that daytrippers should have to pay a small fee to park on the island. It gives them an invested interest while generating an income to alleviate their impact.
- My family and I live near the marina and it is our favorite place to visit on the island as a family. When my 2-year-old rides his John Deer tractor to go buy a lollipop from Miss Mary, I am brought back to my own childhood. I believe that the marina is one of the biggest assets the city has and it should be utilized to its fullest potential for residents and visitors. It should be the place we drive our golf carts to for sundowners with our loved ones; where we go to lunch with our friends in town; where we launch and store our boats. The marina should be geared toward residents first and should be clean, beautiful and a notable revenue stream for the city. At the marina and islandwide, we should give preference to the small local businesses that color our island with such uniqueness and character.
- I will work closely with all Council members, the Mayor , Planning Commission, and the Isle of Palms City Administration to identify
livability issues that impact our residential quality of life and public safety. While we recognize the obligations we have to share our beautiful beach with the broader community, the City Administration and Council must do so in a manner that protects our Island residents, our environment, and ensures balance in all aspects of beach and island resource management.
- I think the current Isle of Palms City Council has taken steps to improve the parking situation, especially on Palm Blvd. I think this has definitely reduced the parking impact in our residential areas. Going forward, our Council must create, with our residents input, a “Strategic Plan” to deal with the current Isle of Palms priorities and future challenges.
- I believe the Isle of Palms Marina should be more accessible to the IOP residents, their families, and visitors on a daily basis. Possibly a nice walking path, and pier/dock access would be a good start. To achieve this, the Council and City Administration must work closely with the long term tenant(s) to optimize residential value and ensure lease compliance. The Call for Offers (Request for Proposals) process that was recently conducted should be closely evaluated by Council, along with citizen input, to assure any future development meets the needs of our citizens and visitors to the Island.
- As a current member of the IOP Planning Commission, we will soon be making a number of recommendations to City Council regarding short term rentals that I believe will better protect our residential areas while preserving the property owner’s desire to own rental property on our island. The current short term rental ordinances were put into place over 10 years ago. For the past couple of months, the Planning Commission has been reviewing potential changes to be made to existing ordinances dealing specifically with short term rentals. I think there are changes that can be made to existing ordinances – not a wholesale rewrite or drastic restrictions like some of our neighboring communities have done – that can better align the interests of all parties listed in your question. The primary purpose of our island wide parking plan is to limit the impact of parking on our residential streets. Changes to our existing ordinances can be made that will accommodate the influx of “day trippers” and at the same time protect our residential streets. We should: continue to drive traffic to our county park; make the residential parking restrictions effective year round; charge for current metered parking all year – not just during the peak season; diligently enforce our current parking ordinances and be proactive in finding ways to increase revenues from parking venues.
- The current Council has begun to move in the right direction in attempting to balance the growth of our island and manage the needs and expectations of all constituents. Some recent decisions may not have been as far reaching as some might like. Creating a healthy balance among all parties and taking steps to achieve the desired end result is the right way to move forward. This approach requires continuing to make changes to some of our existing rules and ordinances. As a member of the Planning Commission, we were successful in having Council implement changes dealing specifically with density, subdivision rules and impervious materials usage. These changes will have a direct effect on our drainage issues. Should I be elected to serve our community on City Council, I will continue to promote these types of changes in order to limit any negative impact of further development on our island.
- ALL ideas need to be discussed thoroughly and in a fact based, non- emotional manner to make a good decision on the future of the marina. Anything from selling the marina to bringing in a management company for the property to releasing requests for proposals when existing leases are up to ensure the City is maximizing its income from the marina. This property, if managed properly, can be a great asset to our island. First and foremost a decision needs to be made regarding how and who can best manage the marina. If the City is to continue to own and operate the marina, we must address the deferred maintenance, parking and most importantly the existing and future leases.
- Roughly a third of our property tax revenues come from long term residents and the other two thirds from second homes and rental properties. This mixture of revenue sources help keep our citizens property taxes relatively low. Isle of Palms has the lowest property taxes in Charleston County. That being said, city council must focus on reducing the impact of short term rentals in residential neighborhoods. I fully support our rules regarding livability issues such as parking and noise complaints. In fact, these rules must be strictly enforced. City council has restricted parking in residential areas to minimize the impact of day visitors. Day and short term rentals are always welcome on the island but they must respect the fact we live here year round. Isle of Palms is a residential, family oriented community, it is not party central.
- I think the current council has done a good job handling the impact of growth in Charleston County. However, there is always room for improvement keeping in mind that our number one priority should be protecting our way of life for island residents. I would promote the idea of working with Mt Pleasant and other Charleston municipalities to help minimize the impact of the thousands of day visitors that come to the island especially in the summer. The associated costs to the city caused by day visitors (especially to our police, fire and public works departments) are very substantial. One idea the city is working on is the creation of an app that day visitors can access to inform them where to park and among other things, let them know when the island is already packed before they decide to come to the beach. Hopefully this useful tool will reduce traffic and provide other benefits to the city (reduced demand for city provided services).
- In the short term I would like the City to continue to work with the current marina tenants in a spirit of co-operation to ensure that the needs of the residents come first, in other words making the marina a more resident friendly environment. For example, I would like to see the marina offer rental space to residents to store paddleboards and kayaks. Also, having a public dock available to residents is part of my vision. I’d like to see the marina host more community events. Installing benches for people to sit and watch boats go by would be an inexpensive project that is easily attainable. In the long term the city needs to work with marina tenants to have them fund major infrastructure improvements to the property.
- Year round, second home owners, along with short term renters make up a large part of our revenue stream. This allows our taxes to remain low, which benefits our community as a whole. Low taxes and managing our budget are crucial. While short term renters are important to our revenue, I do support the livability laws and the enforcement of these laws. I suggest we look at ways to increase fines for parking and noise complaints. Stronger or additional messaging of rules/laws in rental packages and agreements might help. Day trippers are the biggest hurdle, and the toughest issue to solve. While we cannot completely eliminate the visitors, we must find ways to make them play by the rules. We must continue to find ways to limit parking in residential areas. Let’s look at increasing parking and littering fines. Continue monitoring of the beach and enforcing the rules.
- Obviously the growth in Charleston County continues to increase, which adds more day visitors to our island. I believe our current council is doing a real good job trying to come up with ways to limit the growth of our day visitors. For example, they recently enacted parallel parking on Palm Blvd, thus eliminating more parking opportunities. I believe we should continue to be creative in finding other ways of limiting more spaces. As mention before, I believe we should increase parking/ littering fines. I believe the current council, working with staff are looking into ways to “get the word out” that our parking areas are full which may encourage people not to come. I think this is a great idea, which I would support.
- Access and use by our residents takes priority. I believe the first step is negotiating better leases. Also while reserves are being funded for maintenance and repairs, I believe we need to focus on ways to increase these reserves since buildings, docks, bulkhead, parking lot repairs or replacement would be a large cost. I would suggest/support to work with the tenants to come up with ideas for more social events for the residents. What a setting, let’s use it.
Thank you to all of the candidates for their thought-provoking answers. We look forward to hearing from you all again soon.