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Town Residents Call For Action On Sullivan’s Island Maritime Forest

By Karen Byko for Island Eye News

It has been almost four months since a new Sullivan’s Island Town Council and Mayor were voted in by a landslide with a clear mandate to do everything in their power to mitigate the destruction to the maritime forest. However, since taking office, Town Council has taken no action, despite the ability to ask for judicial review to see whether a settlement agreement passed by the last Town Council complies with South Carolina Law. That settlement agreement allows for unprecedented cutting of the maritime forest.

CALL TO ACTION: We urge every citizen who wants to save the forest to attend the Tuesday, September 21st Town Council meeting at 6pm: 2056 Middle Street, Sullivan’s’ Island, SC 29482 (Masks required). 

LEGAL OPINION SHEDS LIGHT ON PATH FORWARD

“We believe inaction is unacceptable on an issue of this magnitude that impacts the safety and ecological health of our island,” said Sullivan’s Island for All President Karen Byko. “We must let these councilmembers know that despite past warnings from those who wrote the settlement that it is ‘unchallengeable,’ there actually is a path forward and we found there is legal precedent to do so.”

The public deserves to know:

  • Was the settlement agreement lawfully entered into?
  • Does the settlement unlawfully bind future Town Council’s legislative and governmental powers?
  • Is there a legal path forward for Town Council?

To get these answers, Land-Use and Environmental Lawyer Ross Appel researched the issue and provided a thoroughly documented legal opinion to Sullivan’s Island for All that Town Council has two clear legal mechanisms available to challenge the settlement and the court order approving the settlement. 

  1. The Declaratory Judgement Act: This Act expressly exists for parties to an agreement to be able to determine their rights and responsibilities without first having to default under a contract.  
  2. Rule 60 of the of the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure: This rule provides several options for seeking relief from an approved court order.

Based on legal precedents, it is Mr. Appel’s opinion, that nothing in the Settlement precludes Town Council from taking either of these actions. As we are fast approaching the one-year anniversary of the original settlement, Town Council is urged to follow Mr. Appel’s opinions and act immediately to call an emergency session of Council to approve the hiring of outside legal counsel to advise on the filing of a Declaratory Judgement and a Rule 60 request for relief under the court order. 

“Town Council is likely the only entity with legal standing to take these actions. They were elected in the largest voter turn-out in island history – and now History is watching them,” Byko said. “It is their duty to do everything they can to protect this amazing natural resource that benefits the entire Lowcountry. Please come to the Town Council meeting on Tuesday and urge them to take action.”

Sullivan’s Island for All is a 501(c)4 nonprofit with a mission to preserve the Sullivan’s Island Maritime Forest and accreted land in its natural state for the benefit, protection and enjoyment of all.

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