Two issues of concern were brought up at the beginning of the Sullivan’s Island Council meeting: the flooding around Station 18 and Atlantic, and the increase in business license fees for short term rentals on the island.
On the flooding issue, several residents arrived to express their concern. Jeff Harris, a resident on Station 18, asked why a good amount of vegetation had been cut down around his house by the Town last spring for the purpose of clearing a ditch, and nothing has been done to this day. The ditch continues to flood and after spending $5,000 on replacing vegetation, two trees are already dying because of the standing water. Atlantic Street resident Joe Blanchard concurred, pointing out that the flooding seems to have gotten worse since SCANA installed a pump which is overriding the existing pump. “Continuing to do nothing is causing houses to flood,” said Blanchard. “Both of my houses have flooded downstairs twice in the past year. I would appreciate some help.”
Town Administrator Andy Benke replied that the issue is being looked into and that they would have comprehensive information back from the engineer looking into drainage at the next Town Council meeting.
On the topic of short term business license fees, John Thomas, whose family has owned a house on I’on for almost 80 years, asked the Council why his business license fee has increased from $500, to almost $8,000. He stated that he is forming an Association of people affected by the dramatic increase in business licenses, pointing out that they will have to attack the issue at some point. “This is gouging,” said resident Mindy Odell. “We bring people to the islands. They’re going to these stores and making this the island you want it to be. You’re being very unfair and you’l hear a lot more about this from us.” David Odell then asked if they could delay paying the fee until the issue was addressed, to which Benke replied that it would be at least four months before anything could be changed, even if a new ordinance was discussed that day. “I would strongly suggest you pay,” said Council member Mike Perkis, “because if anything happened [in terms of changing the business license laws], it wouldn’t be until June that a change could be made.” Perkis then invited the group to the Committees of Council meeting on February 1 to further discuss the issue.
Before closing on the subject, Council member Jerry Kaynard stated that the Council has been tinkering with the business license fee ordinance for two to three years, pointing out that it is all a balancing act. “If we reduce the fee in one area, we have to make it up in another because we’re required by state law to have a balanced budget,” said Kaynard. “All of us are affected by the economy and certain areas of license fees have gone down, so we either have to adjust business license fees or adjust millage for properties.” Two things, he said, have affected short term rental business license fees: the non-resident charge for the license, which previously had not been applied in every area that it should have been applied to by law in the past, and the actual fee itself, which is based on income. “We tried to accommodate business owners at the bottom of the scale,” Kaynard explained, “which effects people on the upper end of the scale. It seems unfair and disproportionate, but we’re trying to give a break to those with little income and still not lose income to the town.”
Proclamation: Boy Scouts of America Centennial Celebration Day
Mayor Carl Smith read a proclamation, declaring February 8, 2010, as Boy Scouts of America Centennial Celebration Day. The proclamation was approved unanimously.
Resolution to support Sullivan’s Island Elementary School
Mayor Smith then read a resolution in support of Sullivan’s Island Elementary and the Town’s commitment to maintaining the school on Sullivan’s Island. Among other things, the resolution stated that “a core component of a residential community is its local elementary school that will create a safe and trusted environment in which children can learn, socialize and personally grow while contributing to the Town.” The resolution was approved unanimously.
Ben Sawyer to become Lewis P. Stith, Sr. Memorial Bridge
Following written requests from Senator Campsen and Governor Mark Sandford, the Sullivan’s Island Town Council discussed the possibility of renaming the Ben Sawyer Bridge to the Lewis P. Stith Sr. Memorial Bridge during their January 19, 2010, meeting. Stith was the attorney for the Town for many years and the Causeway is already named for him.
“I don’t see a problem with it,” said Mayor Carl Smith. “If we were going to change it at all, I would want to change it to Judge Stith,” said Council member Pat O’Neil.
The Council voted 6 – 1 to approve the name change, with Council member Madeleine McGee being the only dissenting vote, noting that “Even if we change the name, people will still call it the Ben Sawyer”. The name change for the bridge is still awaiting approval from the Mount Pleasant Town Council.
Bridge closing’s effect on local business
Concern has been expressed about the bridge closure occurring on Feburary 5, which not only overlaps Super Bowl Sunday, but might also run into Valentine’s Day weekend and the Southeastern Wildlife Expo, as well as the Sullivan’s Island Fire Department Oyster Roast. Administrator Benke replied that, though it may be inconvenient, there is a dollar amount that goes with each day of standing by. Council member Mary Jane Watson also made a note that they are still planning on holding a Bridge Closing Party on the Sunday after the bridge closes, which looks to be February 7, starting at 1pm in the Stith park. Specials will be available at almost all local businesses during the bridge closing.
State of the Town address
“In past years, we had audience and this was the State of Town address,” said Mayor Smith, “but y’all can read it online,” he said, in deference to keeping the meeting short. He did note, however, that several local figureheads have passed away over the past year, and that 101 year old island resident Mrs. Hills has been moved to a nursing home. Smith recommended that everyone go online and read the many accomplishments of the Town when they get a chance.
Projecting a positive end of the year budget
Council member Mike Perkis reported that, after reviewing the past year’s budget, the Town spent more on some things and less on others, but in the end, the projected end-of-the-year budget should be between $90,000 and $100,000 better than budgeted. “We should feel pretty darned good about it,” said Perkis. “Especially with so many municipalities having to look at property tax increase and business tax increase.”
Council member Jerry Kaynard read a letter of commendation from Police Chief Howard, recognizing Corporal Wallace and Officer Mast for successfully apprehending two suspects during an attempted breaking and entering on the island. He also noted that Firefighter Lenton Sharpe as completed his probation status and Fire Department Chief Stith recommended awarding him full time status.
Digging along Station 18
Council member Perkis noted that Charleston Water and Sewer will be digging along Station 18 in the road, and then for 280 feet along Central. For more info and a map of repair areas, visit www.sullivansisland-sc.com.
Safe serve certification for island bars?
Mayor Smith stated that there have been some issues around local bars and restaurants, specifically, about how officers get involved. In terms of jurisdiction, Chief Howard stated that the police can go inside a restaurant if they see something going on, or if they are called. Council member Kaynard asked if the Public Safety Committee could look into an ordinance change requiring employees that serve alcohol on the island to receive safe serve certification. Council member Howle said that it would be an issue that the committee could discuss.
Streets and Maintenance
Council member Madeleine McGee reported that the Streets and Maintenance Committee approved two beach path signs at Stations 22 and 22 ½, but not up yet. The Committee is looking into finding a way to clear out invasive Wisteria at Batter Logan, and in terms of beach clean up, a crew of 15 volunteers arrived the weekend before to help clean up the island beach paths.
Paying to park on the island
Lastly, Town Administrator Andy Benke stated that his goal for 2010 was to do something about paying to park around the island. “We might need to look into this during the first quarter, before the season begins,” he said, suggesting that the Council begin disussing it in early feburary. “I’m not saying we’re going forward with it, but it is a means of gaining revenue,” he pointed out.
The next Sullivan’s Island Council meeting will be held on February 16, 2010, at 6pm in Town Hall, located at 1610 Middle Street.