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Maritime Forest Settlement Is “Invalid And Unenforceable”

By Karen Byko for Island Eye News

“Invalid and unenforceable” is how a former Federal Judge hired by the Town of Sullivan’s Island describes the controversial mediation settlement that would allow huge swaths of the forest to be cut down. 

“We are excited that Town Council has received this unambiguous legal opinion from such a respected legal expert,” said Sullivan’s Island for All President Karen Byko. “Town Council was elected by a landslide in the largest voter-turnout in island history with a mandate to save the maritime forest.” 

Attorney William Wilkins was hired by the new Town Council in October to independently review the mediation settlement. Wilkins is a former federal judge, now working for Nexsen Pruet Law Firm in Greenville. Wilkins submitted his written opinion to the Town Council on November 30th. In his opinion (CLICK HERE TO READ), Wilkins details key reasons that the mediation settlement is “invalid and unenforceable.”

  1. The settlement agreement improperly restricts the legislative/governmental powers of present and future Town Councils.
  2. The settlement agreement unlawfully delegates the legislative/governmental powers of the Town.
  3. The settlement agreement unreasonably restricts the proprietary functions of the Town.
  4. The provisions of the settlement are unenforceable in law or contract, and the unenforceable provisions cannot be severed from the settlement agreement.

“The takeaway from this opinion is that one Town Council cannot bind future Town Councils from enacting new legislation or prevent them from providing for the health, safety and general welfare of its citizens. This settlement agreement does just that,” Byko said. “No elected official should be blocked from doing their jobs.”

Wilkins goes on to outline three ways to overturn the mediation settlement, including:

  1. Filing a Declaratory Judgment 
  2. Filing a request for relief under Rule 60 of the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure
  3. If those residents who pushed for the mediation seek to have it enforced, the Town could file an opposition to enforcement.

“We urge Town Council to take immediate action to file for judicial relief from this unlawful and disastrous settlement before irreversible damage to this precious natural resource occurs,” Byko said. “Wilkins is the third respected attorney to go on the record recommending that the Town Council file for a Declaratory Judgment or Rule 60. The time to act is now.”

The Maritime Forest provides protection for all islanders from hurricanes and storm surge, while also housing a unique and expansive wildlife ecosystem. Members of Sullivan’s Island for All and a majority of island residents, want to see this unique natural resource saved for future generations.

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