By Brian Sherman for The Island Eye News
The Isle of Palms Planning Commission has recommended that the IOP City Council proceed with the second and final reading of five ordinances aimed at limiting development in Wild Dunes. It was obvious at the Nov. 9 meeting that not all members of the Planning Commission were in agreement concerning proposed measures that would amend a planned residential development ordinance approved in 1975 which gave the developer the authority to build 350 hotel rooms and nearly 2,500 residential units.
However, when it came time to vote, the seven member Commission agreed unanimously to send the ordinances back to the Council, which was scheduled to address the issue at its Nov. 15 meeting.
The ordinances, according to Director of Planning and Zoning Douglas Kerr, would limit development in Wild Dunes to its current level and would establish a new conservation/recreation zoning district that would include golf and tennis facilities and also could be used for outdoor recreation, public utility lines and city-sponsored activities and events. At the Planning Commission meeting, the only opposition to the ordinances came from Planning Commission member Sandy Stone, who asked if it was necessary for the Council to quickly pass the measures on second reading. He compared the situation to the South Carolina Department of Transportation re-striping the IOP Connector without input from the city and Council’s decision to transfer the leases at the Marina. “The amended zoning ordinance, to me, has been fast-tracked, and, in some instances, I feel like it’s been forced on us without a whole lot of presentation of facts and no discussion on the part of the parties involved,” Stone said. “I don’t feel good about the way that this thing has moved, the speed at which it’s moved, and I don’t see the urgency or the need to make a snap decision to accept all of these right away,” Stone added.
“I don’t think we’re taking away any rights here,” Planning Commission member Suzanne Nagelski responded. “All these ordinances are saying is that they have to submit and apply for rezoning.” “We’re basically hitting the bear down there with a twoby-four and saying no, no, no,” Stone said. “I don’t know what the implications of all this is and it concerns me. I’m suggesting we take some time, allow City Council and the powers that be at Wild Dunes to meet and talk and work this thing through. What’s the harm?” “I think the harm is not so much in the ordinances but from what people have been speaking out loud and clearly,” Nagelski answered.
“They’re looking at us to give them some sort of affirmation. I think waiting beyond 30 days is unreasonable.” “The ordinances we’re looking at fall within the comp plan that we’re doing. There’s not one portion of it that doesn’t fit into our objectives and goals. It’s consistent with the resiliency plan we’re working on, too,” Nagelski added. After Stone suggested that the city meet with the developers of Wild Dunes, Planning Commission member Steve Corney pointed out that it’s not the Commission’s job to ask the Council to negotiate with the developers, and Kerr agreed. “We as a Planning Commission aren’t being asked to say we want you to negotiate, Council,” Corney said. “If we make recommendations, that doesn’t mean they’re approved. They can take that recommendation and say now we as a Council want to negotiate. Personally, I don’t want them to do that. But our role here is to look at these five and move them forward.” “Our role is to look at this from a technical planning point of view and give a thumbs up or thumbs down for a second reading,” Corney added. Responding to a question from Stone, Kerr pointed out that the developers did not speak publicly at any Council meetings or at either of the two public hearings on the subject and that they haven’t submitted any plans to build additional hotels or housing units in Wild Dunes.
“We have reached out to them and informed them about what’s happening,” Kerr said. “We know that they clearly are watching the process. They are aware of what’s going on.”