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Sullivan’s Island Town Council – November 17, 2009

The Sullivan’s Island Town Council held their regular meeting on November 17 at 6pm. That meeting was preceded by a public hearing at 5:45pm regarding a proposed “Annual Action Plan” by Charleston County that was apparently presented this past spring and included the request of over $3 million in federal funds by the County for various projects.

Accreted Land lockdown

After realizing the huge draw which the Accreted Land meetings are going to have, the Council considered the laborious task of hearing public comments. The most recent meeting which was scheduled for November 10 had to be cancelled and rescheduled because so many concerned residents arrived that they could not fit into the door of Council chambers. A reason for the huge turnout, Mayor Carl Smith suggested, was a letter printed in the Post and Courier which suggested the Town might completely level the area in favor of sand dunes.

“That’s not going to happen,” Mayor Smith said.

However, the biggest issue for the Council was finding a way to limit public comment at the rescheduled meeting. Their main point was that this meeting is not a time dedicated to public comment. “This is not a public hearing. This is a time for Council to meet with the consultants,” Mayor Smith said. “I think Council has been generous. I have a prob-lem with 30 people saying the same thing.” Council member Pat O’Neil pointed out that while everyone has a right to express themselves, not everyone has a right to speak for an unlimited amount of time at every public meeting. Council member Jerry Kaynard was the one Council member who was sensitive to public comment stating that it has been part of their process to bend over backwards so everyone can speak their minds.

In the end they admitted that a 30 minute public comment section would be appropriate. Ironically, it took all of 30 minutes for the Council to make a decision about the public comment section themselves. The front beach property owner group and The Sullivan’s Islanders make up the two main sides of the debate as well as an estimated 80% of the comments the Town has received according to Council member Buddy Howle. Each group will have a dedicated five minutes in the public comment section to speak. Mayor Smith expects the front beach property owners to have an appraiser as well as realtors prepared to speak on their behalf.

The Accreted Land meeting was rescheduled for December 7 at 6pm with a short Committees of Council meeting to precede it at 5:30pm. Due to the high amount of ex-pected audience members, the meeting will be held at the Church of the Holy Cross at 2520 Middle Street. While it is not required, anyone wanting to make a public comment is “strongly encouraged” to register with the Town prior to the meeting.

A commercial threat

“If you don’t pay, we’ll collect it some other way,” Mike Perkis boldly warned restaurant owners in the Town’s business district.

The Town and restaurant owners have been enjoying a fragile cease fire as the restau-ranteurs have been paying the bill for the Town’s police officers to work “off-duty” during the late night hours in the district. According to the Council discussion, restaurant owners have developed a system where they take turns reimbursing the Town for the extra hours that are worked by officers. However, the most recent restaurant whose turn it was to pay seems to have decided it does not want to participate in the program which has resulted in the Town actually having to pay for the police force it is, itself, requiring. This is what instigated Perkis’ collection warning.

Last year, the Town drastically increased business license fees for restaurant owners on the heels of complaints that the commercial district was too noisy.

A bridge on the horizon

Currently, the Council believes that the seven day closure associated with the replace-ment of the Ben Sawyer Bridge should begin on December 4 which would prohibit boat travel. Vehicular traffic is expected to begin detouring through Isle of Palms three days later. However, it was stressed that this date is not set in stone and is subject to weather conditions and other factors. The new bridge has been constructed at the old naval base and they won’t know for sure that the process has begun until the barge carrying the bridge leaves there.

A party to celebrate the 168 hour closing of the bridge has been scheduled and is ex-pected to include a “fun run” and drum circle procession according to Council member Mary Jane Watson. However, because of possible complications with the tree lighting ceremony and the uncertainty of the actual bridge closing, times could possibly change. Check with the Town for confirmation.

Chlorine in the air

In the wake of a chlorine gas leak at the Town’s water plant, Greg Gress stated, “I’d like for us to get away from gas”. While a gas leak is relatively rare occurrence, the last one being about 15 years ago according to Fire Chief Anthony Stith, the price of chlorine gas is rising as more and more municipalities move away from the gas as their source for water purification. Gress stated that the Town needed to look at making some choic-es regarding the Water Department in this regard in the next budget year.

Furthermore, as an additional service, Gress announced that they would begin to warn delinquent customers when their water service is getting ready to be turned off. It’s “a service we think we can provide,” he said.

Mistrust land trust

Council member Pat O’Neil has been leading an investigation into protecting smaller parcels of public land from future development such as the “Old Dump” and the old Pitt Street Bridge area. He has been working with the Mount Pleasant Land Conservancy to research the possibility of putting those properties into a land trust. The next step is to provide clear titles to the property. However, not everyone is on board. Jerry Kaynard, who has been critical of the plan from the beginning, has suggested that the plan gives away the Town’s interest in the property and that doing the same thing with the 19-20 other parcels of land that have been identified for possible protection could get expensive. It was pointed out that there are two main avenues for protection: easement and deed restriction. Through the conversation Kaynard instigated, it was learned that an easement provides stronger protection. A deed restriction could simply be overturned by the Town Council and any future council. Additionally, the representative from the Land Conservancy admitted that many land trusts have been failing lately. If the Mount Pleasant Land Conservancy went under, the property could potentially fall into the hands of the State if a “secondary holder” was not established through another land trust. Kaynard pointed out that the Mount Pleasant Land Conservancy is a relatively young group. The Council was interested in looking at other ways to ensure the land would come back to the Town in the event the land trust failed. No action has actually been taken, yet, to put the property into a trust.

Commercial District Plans

A couple of Council members and the Mayor met with Urban Edge Studios, the consul-tants for the Commercial District Master Plan, on October 12 for a continued discussion on the reverse-angle parking concept that has been holding the plan up for several months now. The Town is expecting to hold a public hearing in January of 2010 in which a final draft of the plan can be presented.

A path to safety

The Town, with a lot of help from the Volunteer Fire Department, has concluded a “test project” which involved trimming trees and improving a public beach path. “I think it looks good myself,” Chief Stith said. Some trees were cut down, vines were clipped and the path generally opened and cleared. The Town is looking to continue improving “emergency” beach paths next year in a similar fashion if the cost is not too great.

Blue Ribbon School

Mayor Smith recognized Christ Our King Stella Maris School for its designation as a “National Blue Ribbon School” with a resolution after attending a ceremony at the school. “I was very impressed by the school and the behavior of the children,” Mayor Smith said. He added that the school is the educational institution for many island children.

Oyster roast cools down

The Volunteer Fire Department’s annual oyster roast, while successful in raising money, was significantly less successful than previous years according to Chief Stith.

“I guess it’s a sign of the times. People got too much going on,” he said. He stated that they went through 77 fewer large bags of oysters this year and half the number of drinks.

Budget on track

Council member Mike Perkis stated the Town is “on budget for revenues”. A six month review of the Town’s budget will be conducted in December. Perkis does not anticipate any problems with the Town’s finances.

A decade of service

It was announced that Christopher Wallace recently celebrated 10 years as a member of the Sullivan’s Island Police Department. Chief Danny Howard joked that while he was not rewarded with a cake, he might be recognized by working over the holidays.

Ordinances

The Town ratified two ordinances that have already passed the three readings required. The first was ordinance 2009-08 which increases the cost for a dog license for people who do not live on the island to $35. It also increases the times that dogs are allowed on the beach with and without a leash.

The second was an ordinance that changes business license fees for rental properties. It basically increases the fee for busier properties.

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