I would like to respond to a letter to the editor printed in the last issue of the island eye news. In discussing the issues faced by the voters of Sullivan’s Island in the upcoming election the letter writer espouses opinions which range from incomplete to being somewhat divorced from the truth. To understand where we should go in the future you have to be accurate about what has happened in the past. For 20 years I believe it is the LOUD MAJORITY who were, and continue to be, active in trying to maintain Sullivan’s Island’s place as the “Mayberry by the Sea.”
The LOUD MAJORITY opposes paid parking so as to continue to make it easy for visitors to our island to come and enjoy our beach without having to pay extra. Remember when we were all young…the beach was free. We should welcome visitors, realizing how lucky we are to live here. We should not charge others to experience for a few hours what we have every day.
The LOUD MAJORITY supported replacing our swing bridge rather than having a fixed span onto the island. We knew that the majority of the traffic proceeded to Isle of Palms. We believed that if we maintained our traditional bridge access, another route to Isle of Palms would be provided – as indeed it was by the building of the Isle of Palms connector.
The LOUD MAJORITY supported the building of a new school on Sullivan’s Island. Almost everyone wanted a new school on the island, and the present SIES is a huge asset to the residents of our island.
The letter writer’s interpretation of the S.C. Supreme Court ruling on the lawsuit is that if the town had decided to continue to oppose the lawsuit this would have resulted in a “clear cutting” of the Maritime Forest. He states that the four members of Town Council who voted to accept the mediation did so to preserve the forest. This is a significant misinterpretation of reality. These four council members who voted in favor of the excessive cutting allowed by the “lawsuit settlement” and the even more excessive cutting allowed by the “settlement revision” approved at the March 16th council meeting are NOT trying to preserve any part of the forest. They also ignored a recommendation for less cutting by another expensive expert “management plan” solicited by Town Council just before the mediation because this management plan did not recommend the amount of cutting they wanted.
The idea that is most divorced from the truth is that the LOUD MAJORITY supported a position of “doing nothing” during this long 30 year debate over management of the protected accreted land. As only one example, the LOUD MAJORITY worked with Council to develop a traditional zone management plan that alone would have resulted in significant vegetation removal throughout the length of the accreted land adjacent to homeowner’s property lines. Most disappointing is the complete absence by the letter writer of any acknowledgement or appreciation of the enormous and all but unique benefits of having a protected Maritime Forest near our homes on this island. Protection from storm surge by the vegetation is obvious. Enhanced water absorption through the roots of the vegetation is the best way to control standing water. Flood insurance rates are lowered by the presence of trees and shrubs. The immense environmental, aesthetic and educational value of the forest, including nature trails, are experienced by students from our school and many island residents. It is an important habitat for many varieties of birds migrating through the island that are showcased by our own bird banding station. All of this could be lost if the “settlement” is implemented.
The letter writer is absolutely correct in one respect: The candidates he recommended, Chauncey Clark, Tim Reese, and Kevin Pennington support and approve the continuing degradation of our protected natural green spaces. So, if you support the values for conservation that I have discussed above, you need to support and elect those candidates who voice support for what is beneficial to the vast majority of the residents of Sullivan’s Island, not what benefits the few. We need to vote for Pat O’Neil for Mayor and candidates Gary Visser, Justin Novak, and Scott Millimet for Town Council. I have lived on Sullivan’s Island for 43 years. In my opinion, this will be the most consequential election that we have held to date. If indeed, as I believe, the LOUD MAJORITY of residents on this island continue to support conservation, historic preservation, and the principles of a single family environment, then we need to speak loudly one more time on the day of the election, May 4. To do otherwise risks turning “Mayberry by the Sea” into, well, something else.