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SI Considers Construction Of Pickleball Courts

By Brian Sherman for The Island Eye News

For the first time in months, the public comments portion of the Sullivan’s Island Town Council meeting wasn’t dominated by local residents voicing their opinions on the situation surrounding the Maritime Forest. Instead, more than a dozen concerned citizens, including a current Council member and two teens, told their local representatives how they felt about three other subjects: the possible construction of pickleball courts at Citadel Park; the planned rezoning of property near Battery Logan; and the sewer system’s new pump stations.

By the time its Nov. 16 meeting came to a close, the Council promised additional study on two of the three issues before any action is taken. Council Member Gary Vissar announced to the audience that the plan to add a new Public Facilities zoning category had been withdrawn from the Council’s agenda. Meanwhile, Council Member Kaye Smith said additional public comment on the pickleball courts would be welcomed at a Recreation Committee meeting shortly after the Thanksgiving holiday.

“I think we need to revisit the pickleball courts,” Smith said.

The Council did not respond during the meeting to comments from Paul Vannatta and Brent Havens, whose homes are just yards away from one of six recently-completed lift stations that carry sewage to the town’s newly-renovated treatment plant. Neither is happy with the look of the new facilities.

“If your neighbor raised a cement structure and put paving down where green space was, how would you feel if that was right next to your house?” Vannatta asked. “Take care of this mess, or please help residents help you put some lipstick on those six pigs.”

“They’re as bad as we knew they were going to be,” Havens added. “We were pretty much told to just go away. We were treated like second-class citizens. We need some help. They’re terrible. Please help us with some beautification – some hiding of these structures.”

The most popular subject at the meeting was the proposed pickleball paving project. Council Member Greg Hammond temporarily vacated his seat on the podium to join the line of speakers from the audience, pointing out that more paving and less green space would be a bad idea at Stith Park as well as at Citadel Park.

“If we were to separate the field from the playground with pickleball courts, I think that would be terrible,” he said. “I’m not against pickleball courts, but anything we do in Stith Park needs to be part of a greater comprehensive plan.”

Youngsters Benjamin and Lucas Harwell, 11 and 13, respectively, asked the Council not to reduce the size of the field at Citadel Park by adding pickleball courts, noting that they have been playing football and other sports on the field for years.

“This is my first time talking about it, and I hope it’s not the last,” Benjamin commented, and Lucas added that “all they have to do is paint lines on the tennis courts and the people will have space to play pickleball.”

Cindy Garland cited the “sense of community” engendered by the park, while Phil Garland opined that “other than Stith Park, it’s the only space where you have something for every age group and for families.”

Mark Howard told the Council that Citadel Park is “perfectly scaled as it is now.”

“We do not need any more asphalt,” he said. “It is a wonderful park and has served this town for decades. To minimize the green space would be a sin.”

Karen Coste said she opposed building the new pickleball courts but was even more concerned that “residents have been left out of this discussion.”

The Council heard from pickleball supporters as well. Dan Krosse pointed out that it’s one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States, while John Hines said he often must drive to Mount Pleasant to play pickleball because there aren’t enough courts on the island.

“The Town Council needs to find somewhere to build pickleball courts,” Amanda Poletti said.

If there are supporters of the plan to rezone the area near Battery Logan, they didn’t speak at the Nov. 16 meeting. Barbara Spell said homeowners near Station 16 and Atlantic would like no steps to be taken, including rezoning, “that could potentially lead to the future commercialization or other change in the use of the valuable green space.”

“Sometimes the best use of a piece of property is no use,” Carl Jacobson told the Council. “We elected you to preserve the beauty of this island.”

Julia Khoury added that the area should be kept as green space for recreational use.

Vissar explained why the rezoning proposal was removed from the Council’s agenda.

“The reason it was withdrawn is because we felt as an abundance of caution, especially to those people who were concerned for specific properties, Battery Logan among them, that they again be posted. We are in no rush,” he said.

At their Nov. 16 meeting, Council members also accepted bids of $32,947.50 from Ilderton Construction for mothballing shallow well pump station houses on Jasper Boulevard; $6,375 for trail cleanup at Sullivan’s Island Elementary School; and $22,480 for cleanup work at the town’s two cemeteries.

In addition, the Council approved funding for three historical markers, with the design and wording to be provided by the Battery Gadsden Cultural Center. They will be located at Battery Capron and Butler; Station 17 and Middle; and near the cannons at the intersection of Middle and Poe and will cost between $2,000 and $6,000 each, according to Council Member Justin Novak.

After emerging from executive session, the Council voted unanimously to retain the services of attorney J. Brady Hair to defend Police Chief Chris Griffin in a lawsuit that accuses the chief of sending explicit text messages to two women in November 2019.

Filed Oct. 6 in the Court of Common Pleas for the Ninth Judicial Circuit, the lawsuit accuses Griffin of sending the messages during the South Carolina Police Chiefs Association Annual Leadership Conference in Myrtle Beach. The lawsuit seeks actual and punitive damages, costs, attorney’s fees, other damages and “any other relief the court may deem just and equitable.”

Griffin has been with the Sullivan’s Island Police Department since August 1997. He was acting chief beginning in April 2017 and was hired to serve in the position full-time in January 2018.

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