By Brian Sherman for The Island Eye News
The Sullivan’s Island Town Council has taken another step toward taking another look at the mediated settlement that permits trees and other vegetation to be removed from the town’s Maritime Forest. At a special meeting on Sept. 29, a divided Council voted to retain independent legal counsel “to determine the town’s rights and obligations under the terms of the settlement agreement,” according to a motion presented by Council Member Justin Novak. Novak made the motion after the Council met for nearly an hour behind closed doors in executive session. The measure passed by a 4-2 margin, with support from Novak, Scott Millimet, Gary Visser and Mayor Pat O’Neil. Kaye Smith and Greg Hammond, the only remaining Council members who supported the agreement when it was approved by the Council in October 2020, voted no. Bachman Smith was not present at the meeting. The action taken by the Council apparently was a reaction to the large number of local residents who showed up at its Sept. 21 meeting to ask for clarification on the terms of the mediated settlement, which last October appeared to bring to a close more than a decade of negotiations.
O’Neil said “quite a few” other islanders had contacted Council members concerning the same issue over the past few months. According to Sullivan’s Island for All President Karen Byko, “… despite past advice from those who wrote the settlement that it cannot be challenged, there actually is a legal path forward.”
The nonprofit organization has hired attorney Ross Appel, also a City of Charleston council member, to study the viability of the settlement.
O’Neil did not indicate when or how the Council would choose an attorney to study the mediated settlement.