By Brian Sherman for The Island Eye News
The Sullivan’s Island Town Council has shot down two proposed ordinances, at least temporarily delaying a change in the town’s zoning rules and putting to rest a plan with the potential to eliminate approximately 162 parking spaces on the island. Council members considered two ordinances on third reading at their July 20 meeting, but both measures failed the final test.
Ordinance 2021-10, which would have changed the rules on short-term parking lots, was short-circuited by a 6-0 vote. Meanwhile, Ordinance 2021-11, an effort to permit local property owners to have more than one driveway, suffered a 5-2 defeat.
According to Director of Planning and Zoning Joe Henderson, 557 parcels of land on the island – not all of them with existing buildings – would have had the option of having two or even three driveways. He added that on approximately 248 of those properties, the addition of a driveway would eliminate public parking, with the possibility of doing away with around 162 spots. Council Member Greg Hammond voiced his support for the proposed ordinance, pointing out that some of his fellow Council members might be too concerned about inconveniencing visitors to the island.
“As a resident of Sullivan’s Island, I would hope my Council members would be voting in my interest over the interests of people who are not residents of Sullivan’s Island,” said Hammond, who was not at the meeting but was attending virtually. “If I were there in person, I would vote for it.
There was tons of public input. I think it’s very sensible.” The issue was discussed at Planning Commission meetings in February, March and April and at a public hearing April 14, and at a meeting of the Land use and Natural Resources Committee in February. The third reading of the ordinance required a second driveway for a specific parcel to be located on a separate road frontage.
Henderson pointed out that a second driveway would have required an encroachment permit from the South Carolina Department of Transportation, which owns most of the roads on the island, as well as a building permit from the town. Council Member Scott Millimet, who opposed the ordinance, said additional driveways could lead to increased flooding, as well as safety and traffic problems and “those issues haven’t been looked into.” “Beyond the Maritime Forest, the biggest issue facing Sullivan’s Island is parking, and this has the potential to eliminate 162 beach parking spots,” he said. “I’m not sure how many people would want to have a driveway on both sides of their property, but I’m not terribly frightened by the total number of driveways this would lead to,” Mayor Pat O’Neil commented. “I do have a little concern about giving up parking spaces. I’ve seen the problem we were trying to avoid when we said just one per property. I’m having trouble reversing course on the stance we’ve had all along on this. I’m not as enthusiastic as I was at one time.” In the end, Council Members Kaye Smith and Bachman Smith voted to approve the ordinance on third reading, while O’Neil, Millimet, Justin Novak and Gary Vissar opposed the measure. Hammond was not allowed to vote because the town’s pandemic-related emergency ordinance permitting remote participation in Council meetings had expired.
Another parking problem?
The changes to the town’s zoning laws through Ordinance 2021-11 met a similar fate. The measure would have permitted Henderson to approve the establishment of short-term parking lots for the general public in the town’s commercial district. He explained that currently, a parking lot can be established only through a written agreement between the owner of the property and a specific business or businesses – and only after going through the public hearing process. Novak said he thought there should be more public input on the subject, and Council members agreed to kill the ordinance and take a closer look at the issue. At the July 20 meeting, the Council also voted to accept bids for new lighting and resurfacing the tennis and basketball courts at J. Marshall Stith Park.
Town Administrator Andy Benke said the lights are at least 20 years old and that the town has had “constant problems” with them. “It will be a big project but one that’s definitely needed,” Recreation Committee Chair Kaye Smith added, and Novak pointed out that the new lights would save on electricity and provide less light pollution for surrounding homeowners.
Benke said the contractors he has contacted would like to start work on the project sometime between November and January. He said the courts would be out of service for three to four weeks while they are being resurfaced.