Isle Of Palms Marina Leases Left Unsigned As Discussions Linger

By Brian Sherman for The Island Eye News

Photo by Sean Henderson

After nearly four hours in executive session on Aug. 2, members of the Isle of Palms City Council approved fewer than half of the proposed amendments to the IOP Marina leases and sent the documents back to the company that hopes to eventually operate the marina. The council also met behind closed doors during its regularly scheduled July 26 meeting but took no action when it returned to open session. During that meeting, several local residents – including former councilman Randy Bell – spoke out against the town’s plans to allow current marina operator Brian Berrigan to transfer his leases to Mike Shuler, manager and principal investor of 32 North. 

The council passed the first reading of the ordinance transferring the leases by a 5-4 vote at its June 28 meeting. 

Mayor Phillip Pounds said on Aug. 4 that “the best-case scenario” would be for the second reading to be considered during a special meeting prior to the council’s monthly workshop on Aug. 9. The amendments still must be approved by Shuler. Pounds said the two leases – one for the marina and the other for the marina market – have now been amended a total of 12 times. At the Aug. 2 meeting, council members approved only four of the 11 amendments that apparently were discussed during executive session. By a 6-3 vote, they changed the time for beer and wine sales and consumption at the market from dark to sunset. John Bogosian, Jan Anderson, Jimmy Ward, Scott Pierce, Katie Miars and Pounds voted for the amendment, which was opposed by Blair Hahn, Rusty Streetman and Kevin Popson. Council members also voted to make on-site consumption of beer and wine at the market exclusively package, self-serve and retail transactions. 

Yes votes came from Streetman, Popson, Miars, Pierce, Anderson, Bogosian and Pounds, while Ward and Hahn voted no. In addition, the council agreed to add a statement to the lease saying that trailer parking will not be prohibited for Isle of Palms residents, only Hahn voted no. 

Finally, the council voted to require the marina operator to sell live bait.

The amendment was supported by Streetman, Popson, Miars, Pierce, Bogosian and Pounds and opposed by Anderson, Hahn and Ward.

According to Pounds, under his lease, the current marina operator is required to offer live bait – but he hasn’t been. Eleven proposed amendments were defeated by the council, ranging from a prohibition on amplified music to alcohol consumption to parking, limiting the size of a proposed boat club, potential improvements to the marina parking lots and a waiting list for boat slips. Hahn voted against almost every proposed amendment to the leases. “I don’t believe the city council has the right to demand that any of those additional requirements be added to the lease,” Hahn said later. “I do not believe that any of the additional requirements were ultimately to the benefit of the city and were in large part designed by a minority to attempt to derail the transfer of this lease.” Prior to the executive session, Miars presented a motion to postpone the second reading of the ordinances: “In order to request an opinion letter from Haynesworth Sinkler Boyd advising whether the city should move forward on the assignment of the Marina leases without receipt of the due diligence deliverables beyond what has been received to this date.” “We have received some things, but we haven’t received everything,” Miars said. 

“There is some language in these amendments that specifically speaks to the makeup of the new tenant and relies on that makeup, so I don’t know how we can go forward with that language without actually knowing what the makeup is as we sit here today.” “I don’t feel comfortable going forward, but if we were to get an opinion letter from our attorneys that we hired, then that would be something that I would be able to at least take into consideration in voting on this assignment,” Miars commented. “I think we’re in the same place on due diligence items that we have been for months,” Pierce added. “We still can’t answer the four basic questions: Who are we doing business with?; are they financially sound?; what’s the revenue split going to look like on behalf of the residents on Isle of Palms with the new mix of services?; and what’s the plan for the Marina? Those fourquestions are still completely unanswered in my mind.” When council members emerged from executive session, Miars withdrew her motion “because I’ve been advised by our counsel that that is not an option.” 

During the citizens’ comments portion of the July 26 meeting, Bell, who retired from the council earlier this year, said that “leadership on this marina lease discussion is unacceptable to any knowledgeable and engaged citizen.”

 “Unfortunately, most remain silent,” Bell added. “The council should simply vote, as required, on the lease transfers,as is, and fully engage in the interest of the residents and property owners. Approving an uncodified, amended lease that so far has yielded vague, ambiguous intent does not represent community interests. Making a critical mistake twice on the same marina is unacceptable. You cannot act by stating we’ll find out what is in it after we approve it.”

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