By Meredith Poston, The Island Connection Staff Writer
The debate over Captain Sam’s Spit development continues, with a much-needed opportunity to speak on the subject coming to fruition on April 18 from 6p.m. to 8p.m. at Kiawah Town Hall. Those opposed and those in favor of the development proposed by Kiawah Island Partners are encouraged to attend.
Kiawah’s biggest multi-family private vacation club & residence project, the newest project by Timbers Resorts, will include three buildings on approximately 3 ½ acres of western Kiawah beachfront.
This project will entail that nearly 8,000 cubic yards of clean sand be removed from the construction space; it has been proposed that this considerable amount of sand be dumped and used to build sand walls at Captain Sam’s Spit.
The highly contended 50-home development was proposed by Kiawah Partners back in 2009, after the development firm surrendered rights building a 325-room hotel on the property adjacent to Beachwalker Park.
Like the rest of Charleston County and its surrounding areas, according to the Kiawah Island Property Report of 2015, in the past several years Kiawah has experienced quite a housing development boom; Captain Sam’s Spit is known as one of the few undeveloped barrier island spits that remains.
Captain Sam’s Spit is a 170-acre sand strip located on the most western portion of Kiawah Island, facing Seabrook Islands. Considered by many to essentially be a sand bar, this stretch of delicate land serves as a habitual host for multiple, federally endangered species including loggerhead turtles and the occasional leatherback turtles, piping plover shorebirds, and least terns. It also acts as home to many other bird species, diamondback terrapin turtles, bottlenose dolphins, and horseshoe crabs for nesting, feeding, and resting.
Historically, Captain Sam’s Spit is known to have eroded due to its being adjacent to the Kiawah River inlet, with some severe instances leaving it detached from the main body of Kiawah Island.
Kiawah Partners claims that moving the 8,000 cubic yards of sand to the western tip of the island is necessary for resident’s property protection and personal safety; however, neither their projected housing development nor the proposed roadway have been approved, leaving no current need for this requested protection.
Restrictions are firm on Captain Sam’s Spit; to prevent wildlife disturbance, dogs are banned year-round. It has been argued that if they are thought to be too much of a distribution, large vehicles transporting and depositing the sand at the spit will be an issue.
It has also been contended that the developer seeks the spit as a sand dumping space to reduce cost of transporting the construction soil and sand off the island.
The Island Connection spoke to several island residents, as well as referred to local experts at the Coastal Conservation League who are opposed to the sand wall development because of the belief that it will cause more of a disturbance to the wildlife that cohabitate there than it will be of any kind of natural benefit. The application for the proposed development does not include any monitoring of the spit for possible impacts that may occur from the sand dumping and building. It also excludes any mention of the need to monitor for possible effects on federally protected nesting turtles, which do reside in the area proposed for building.
Bill Hindman, the official spokesperson Kiawah Partners, has made public statement that twenty out of 170 acres, or 11.67 percent of Captain Sam’s Spit would be developed, with the rest being placed under conservation agreements made between the developer and Kiawah Island Town Council.
The permit was filed with the South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control and was received on March 7.
Jimmy Bailey, the Kiawah Island Community Association’s Chief Operations Officer states that the KICA “has not taken any position on this one way or the other.”
At the April 18 meeting, DHEC’s Ocean and Coastal Resource Management officials will be taking in all public commentary regarding the topic of Kiawah Partner’s request to relocate the sand to the spit. It is after this meeting that the OCRM will decide whether to issue the requested permits; meanwhile, state permits for the proposed roadway and housing development remain on hold.