Mayor Pro-Tem Charles Lipuma chaired the meeting as Mayor Steve Orban was out of town. Councilmember Alan Burnaford was also not present.
Discussing Dune Walkovers
While voting on the second reading of Ordinance 2012 – 02 was suspended until the May council meeting, island resident Dr. Kenneth Oberhue spoke on the issue of the ordinance’s requirement that dune walkovers stand at least two feet above a dune. This language will bring the Town in keeping with the current Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM) regulations, however, Dr. Oberhue argued that, as an accreting island, sand will continue to accumulate under walkways on the Kiawah beach. He provided pictures of nearby walkovers that are compliant, noting the additional handrails that needed to be added due to their increased height.
“The beach will look like nothing but a lumberyard to me and it will decrease the value of my home,” he said.
He asked that the Council consider the aesthetic impact of the higher walkovers with railings, as well as the rapid accumulation of sand on the beach, and asked that Kiawah Island Real Estate give their opinion on what might happen to home values if the new walkovers are installed.
Councilmember Charles Lipuma stated that the Ordinance will be back on the agenda for the May Council meeting and, as a side note, said that, “If we were smart, twenty five years ago the Town would not have had an allowance for each property to build their own walkway. It makes for an ugly setting. But it is what it is, and that’s what we have to deal with.” He assured Dr. Oberhue that the Council would look into these issues.
Second reading of Ordinance 2012-03: HVAC setback exceptions
Councilmember Lipuma quickly summarized the ordinance, which requires that all HVAC units on the island be moved if they are located under a home so that they will meet the current flood zone requirements. The ordinance allows repositioned HVAC units to move up to five feet into a setback if the home meets certain requirements.
Council approved second reading and adopted the ordinance unanimously.
Beachwalker Drive Landscaping Improvements
Town Treasurer Kenneth Gunnells read a request asking the Council to approve an expenditure of $16,037.41 for The Greenery landscaping company to restore and replant several flowerbeds throughout the island. The expenditure was approved by Ways and Means and the amount has already been set aside by the Hospitality Committee under the landscaping account.
Council approved the expenditure unanimously.
National Audubon Society’s Important Bird Area Program
Councilmember Greg Vanderwerker, chair of the Island Environmental Committee, read a request that was brought up during the Committee’s February meeting. Due to the wide variety of coastal birds that frequent Kiawah Island, the Committee would like to request that the entire beach on the island – from Captain Sams Inlet to the Stono River Inlet – be designated an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society. The designation is not legally binding and does not establish any standing in a court of law, but it does list Kiawah Island with the National Audubon Society as a place for avian enthusiasts to find certain types of birds.
“Given that we have the population, there’s no cost, and no legal implication, just an arbitrary listing, the Environmental Committee recommended that we seek endorsement from the Council to fill out the application,” said Vanderwerker. He added that anyone can apply for Important Bird Area status, including the Kiawah Island Community Association and the Resort, if they wish. Because of the population of endangered birds on Kiawah, Town Biologist Aaron Given believes that the Kiawah beach could receive the highest Important Bird Area designation, which is a global priority ranking.
Council unanimously approved the motion to adopt the principle of applying for the designation for the Town.
Beach franchise agreement – Night Heron Park Company
Having recently realized that their franchise rights expired as of April 1, the Resort’s Night Heron Park Company requested that their franchise agreement be renewed for a term commencing on April 3 and expiring on March 31, 2013, with the opportunity to be renewed for two additional one year terms. Councilmember Lipuma and Town Administrator Tumiko Rucker discussed the request with both the Resort and Butch Neal of Island Beach Services and all agreed to the terms, which Lipuma noted are very similar with some exceptions to the one that the Resort previously held. One of the exceptions was the Resort’s request to change the buffer zone around their 1600 foot area in front of The Sanctuary from 50 yards to 25 yards. Rucker noted that Island Beach Services agreed to this provision.
Following a brief discussion on the actual location of the franchise area, which falls between boardwalks 22 and 27, the Council approved the franchise agreement unanimously.
Free Bycatch Reduction Devices on Diamondback Terrapin Day
As part of Kiawah Island’s Earth Day celebration on Wednesday, April 18, Councilmember Lipuma read a proclamation appointing that same day as Diamondback Terrapin Day. To celebrate, the Town will be offering free Bycatch Reduction Devices for crab traps to reduce the number of terrapins becoming stuck in the traps and subsequently drowning. The devices will be installed for free on April 18 by appointment at the Town Hall garage (call Town Hall at 768-9166) and from 5 – 8 p.m. at Night Heron Park as part of the island Earth Day Festival.
End of the Arts Season Approaching
As chair of the Arts Council, Councilmember Lipuma was happy to report a great turnout at the March 29 piano and cello concert held at the Church of our Saviour. “It was very well performed and well received,” he said. The next Arts Council event will be the Piccolo Preview on Sunday, April 29 at Holy Spirit Catholic Church, and the season will conclude with the Sundown Festival at Night Heron Park on June 27.
“In the meantime, be confident that the Arts Council is working out new and exciting performances for the next season starting in September or October,” said Lipuma.
Councilmember Vanderwerker reported that they are in the process of updating the local beach management plan and while the plan looks good overall, there are a few minor changes that need to be made and the plan needs to be placed in a new format.
“So with fairly minimal work, we’ll have an index year and won’t have to redo the plan for another ten years,” said Vanderwerker, referring to the law requirement that the Town’s beach management plan be updated at least every ten years.
Vanderwerker noted that the native plant demonstration in the Town parking lot is progressing well and they are currently waiting on the arrival of some plants. He also reported that both the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) and National Geographic were recently on the island. The BBC was filming the Town’s bobcat studies for a natural history segment, and National Geographic was installing video cameras to capture alligators in their natural habitats. Finally, Vanderwerker noted that Heather Walbright will be replacing Scott Fister as the Sustainability Coordinator for the Resort.
As a side note, Vanderwerker also reminded the Council that on Friday, April 27, the Town will be participating in the Great American Cleanup. Anyone who would like to join in the cleanup is welcome to meet at Town Hall at 9 a.m. Participants will receive a free lunch and t-shirt.
Public Safety Committee
Councilmember Fran Wermuth stated that the Communications Committee is currently looking into the new changes to the Town website and regarding Public Safety, the next PGA public safety meeting will be held on April 19. Additionally, she welcomed anyone who would like to attend to the Public Safety meetings to join them for reports and updates, noting that the committee hears regularly from the fire department and the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office.
Town Administrator’s Report
“The Kiawah Resident Exchange is now live, so if you haven’t logged in, please do and sign up for the notifications you would like to receive,” said Town Administrator Rucker, referring to the new e-information system on the Town website. She noted that upcoming April events and Arts Council events will be publicized through the portal soon.
Regarding the Town’s Greenbelt project, the Town was given a notice to proceed on March 26 and the repairs and renovations to the Beachwalker Road fishing pier will begin soon and should take no longer than 90 days.
Rucker also reported that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) improvements to Town Hall should begin by the end of April. There will be some interruption regarding access through the front of the building, but a temporary entrance will be installed by the contractor and for a short period of time, access to the Town Hall will only be available through the back of the building.
“We will expedite that process as much as possible, but we ask that visitors use the back access during these times,” said Rucker.
She also noted that updated flood maps will soon be available to residents so that they may apply for reduced flood insurance if they quality.
Additionally, Rucker reminded the Council and audience that the inter-island Disaster Awareness Day will be held on June 7 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Lastly, regarding a question last month by a citizen who was wondering why his section of Kiawah Island was not set up for Comcast service, Rucker reported that she spoke with Comcast and they hope to have the issue resolved in short order. Comcast also requested a list of other areas on the island not able to receive Comcast service and they hope to start the process in those areas soon, as well.
As Mayor Pro-Tem, Councilmember Lipuma reported that he would be attending a stakeholders meeting concerning proposals to widen Maybank Highway from River to Main roads, as well as install the proposed pitchfork. There will also be a meeting for the general public on April 17 at Haut Gap Middle School from 6 – 8 p.m., with diagrams of the proposal available for public comment.
Regarding two requests for funding from the Town, Lipuma read a letter from the Mayor that regretfully denied a donation of $250,000 toward the building of a helicopter landing pad on the roof of Roper St. Francis downtown. “There’s no objection to the project, but the town’s funding is limited,” Lipuma said.
A request by the Charleston Symphony Orchestra was approved, though instead of the requested $100,000, the Town agreed to donate $50,000 toward the non-profit organization.
“There are many requests like this received, and while the Town has relatively deep pockets, it’s not bottomless and we have to decide where the funds we do have, go,” said Lipuma.
Island resident Bill Blizzard asked that the Council inform him on the best way to proceed with rectifying the quality of water he is receiving at his house. While he currently has an all-house water filter in place, his water quickly becomes highly contaminated with bacteria. He held up a mason jar filled with filmy, dark brown liquid.
“This is what’s coming out of my drinking water tap,” he said.
The water company, he said, has come out twice to backwash the system, but the water continues to become contaminated quickly and a test of the water came back with the recommendation to change out his all-house filter at least once a month, as opposed to the regular span of every three months.
“I don’t know what to do, and water company doesn’t know what to do,” said Blizzard.
Town Administrator Rucker took Blizzard’s water samples and said she would discuss the issue with Kiawah Island Utility immediately.
A representative from Roper St. Francis also spoke, thanking the Town for considering their proposal and stated that, while the Town could not donate the requested $250,000, any amount would help them toward achieving their goal. She noted that a landing pad would be particularly important during the PGA, when it would be especially difficult to get on and off the island.
“It’s a life saving project and we would be happy with $50,000,” she said.
Lastly, resident Marilyn Larach thanked the Town Council for all of their work with the Arts Council, noting that it is “a treat to everyone out here and everyone in the community. Thanks for making it such a pleasure to live here.”
For more information on the Kiawah Island Town Council, please visit http://www.kiawahisland.org/Government/TownCouncil.aspxTweet