By Katy Calloway, Managing Editor for The Island Connection
The November meeting of the Kiawah Town Council got underway without delay. Councilmember John Koach was pronounced absent and on vacation. The minutes from the previous month’s meeting were approved unanimously and Mayor Weaver began with his comments. He updated the audience on the beach scraping that is going on as a result of tropical storm Irma. The project is happening in two phases: the first phase was under an emergency permit that allowed the Town to immediately address damage that impacted the Ocean course, areas from the practice tee down to the Beach Club. The second part of that project addressed the area of beach along Turtle Point Golf Course. Phase one has been completed and appears to have come in under budget. The mayor expressed his satisfaction with the project thus far, stating, “I think it’s been able to do in a few weeks what would have taken one or two or three years for us to be able to do in terms of natural accretion.” Phase two has yet to begin and required a special permit request to scrape the beach. The public comment period for the special request closed on Nov.7 and no comments had been made.
Phase two addresses mostly private property owners along Eugenia Ave. up through Mariner’s Watch. Phase two is expected to proceed without delay. Mayor Weaver then addressed the OCRM jurisdictional lines that has homeowners along the beach talking. The Mayor informed the audience that a revised timeline has been issued and that the public comment period for redefining the baseline and setback line has been extended until April of 2018 and the implementation period will also be moved back. The Town has been working with Coastal Science and Engineering to understand the changes that are being presented and how it will impact Kiawah Island. A draft report has been produced and as soon as it is finalized Weaver will share it with Council and property owners that may be impacted by the changes. The proposed lines will have a significant impact on much of Kiawah, moving building requirements landward. The first item of new business on the day’s agenda was a recommendation to amend the text of Chapter 12 Land Use Planning and Zoning to allow a rezoning of a property located at 1 Kiawah Beach Dr. from commercial to RST 2 resort zoning district. A representative explained the property is approx. 1.19 acres in the West beach area. The particular straw market parcel was left out of a group of parcels that were rezoned at the beginning of the summer. The future land use for the area is designated resort. The Planning Commission previously approved the change by a unanimous vote. Mayor Weaver explained to Council that this particular parcel was part of a development agreement that was reached in 2010 with Kiawah Island Resort, but the paperwork for the rezoning of the parcel had never been completed. Approving this request was essentially tying up loose ends. The first reading passed unanimously. Up for second reading was the beach hole ordinance that prohibits metal shovels on the beach. Councilmember Mezzanotte asked that the rental agencies be informed so that visitors will know about the new rule. The new ordinance passed unanimously.
Also approved for second reading were ordinances 2017-19 regarding yard debris removal, 2017-21 regarding beach walkover repair, and 2017-09 regarding short-term rental regulations. Town Treasurer, Dorota Szubert, took to the podium to explain resolution 2017-3 to open an investment account with the South Carolina Investment Pool. She remarked that the Town’s investments instruments are limited. The SC Investment Pool currently only offers short-term investment options but they are working on a long-term portfolio that should be available for next quarter. “Obviously we have a desire and intent to remain prudent and conservative in our investment approach, but at the same time, over the last few years with low interest rates, it’s almost like putting your money under the mattress,” remarked Mayor Weaver, obviously in favor of the more aggressive approach. Councilmember John Wilson added, “the Sate of South Carolina’s requirements as to what a town may invest in are so restrictive that this pool, at the moment, is about as good as it gets.” The resolution passed unanimously. The next item was a staff proposal that the Town adopt a policy with respect to participating in the cost of healthcare for retired employees.
Mayor Weaver took this item off of the day’s agenda and plans to bring it back for review in December. The next recommendation also addressed employee healthcare. The State has redefined rates for employees and minimums that Towns need to contribute to employee coverage. The staff recommendation is to approve for 2018 a supplement to the state required contribution of $133 a month for employees participating in the state healthcare program.
Councilmember Chris Widuch opposed the motion, partly because he doesn’t approve subsidies. He was outnumbered by a 3-1 vote and the motion passed.
Dorota Szubert updated Council on the Town financials. The balance had decreased by about $600,000 from June 30. Szubert stated that everything looks reasonable as far as the revenues and expenditures also were in line with the budget spending. Committee Reports began with Councilmember Chris reporting from the Public Safety Committee that St. Johns Fire District Commission is still accepting applications up until Dec. 4 for anyone interested in serving on the Commission. Councilmember Wilson reported that he attended the Berkeley Charleston Dorchester Council of Governments meeting. A consultant has been hired to address a bike and walking path plan for the three counties. 526 is still on hold, but local groups continue to look for ways to fund the project.
Councilmember Mezzanotte reported that KICA is exploring plans to address drainage issues. Next month Becky Dennis, manager of the Kiawah Island Utility, will attend the Sea Level Rise committee meeting to discuss water and sewage systems and what they have planned. The Arts Council held two successful events since their last meeting and is preparing for the Charleston Symphony Orchestra event, which drew about 480 people last year. It takes place the last Saturday in December. Citizens’ comments wrapped up the meeting. The Town was asked if letters had gone out to boardwalk owners regarding repair of boardwalks. Letters in fact were sent two weeks ago. The ordinance was finally approved today, (Nov. 7). Two comments were made regarding communications, asking that the Town seek input from the public regarding beachfront jurisdictional lines to be included with the CSE report. The second comment requested that known traffic delays be announced in advance of occurrence so that residents needing to get off the island have plenty of notice. Comments were also made regarding safety of the new municipal center and the process for changing policies in the employee handbook. An emergency preparedness session was requested for residents that may not have be present during hurricane season. The final question asked in reference to the beachfront jurisdictional lines, if the Town of Kiawah has a process to follow federal or state legislation that affects property owners. Mayor Weaver replied, “We certainly do.” With no further business, the meeting was adjourned. The next meeting of the Kiawah Island Town Council takes place Dec. 5 at 2 p.m.