May 11 2018

Dolphin Study Begins, Drainage Improvements Begin Soon

By Gregg Bragg for The Island Connection

Seabrook Island Town Council opened April’s monthly meeting with the increasingly customary moment of silence. The quiet followed an invitation for comments on ordinance 2018-03. The measure re-zones 2731 Old Oak Walk from its current residential classification to agricultural/conservation.

SITC sifted through and approved three sets of meeting minutes before the mayor pivoted to the financial report for March. True to predictions last month, March revenues were just shy of $100,000 above projections, and put HMS Seabrook back ahead of budget by $39,000 for the year.

Jenny Honeycutt introduced herself to SITC as a candidate for County Council District 9 during the first installment of citizen’s comments. The James Island native is running in a primary race with republican incumbent Joe Qualey.

Seabrook resident Floyd DeAndrade commented in support of Moving Day scheduled for June 2 at James Island County Park. He says the event is your chance to speak up about Parkinson’s disease, move others to action, raise money, and increase understanding of a disease that affects so many. More information is available by visiting MovingDayWalk. org/event/moving-day-charleston-sc/.

Councilmember John Gregg reported the club’s long range planning committee met on April 6. Focused on their strategic plan for 2018, the club expects to use the same/similar survey as last year to facilitate comparisons, said Gregg. He also said the public safety committee met on April 16. Gregg made a point of going on record with the committee’s disappointment; fewer emergency contact refrigerator magnets were approved than requested, he said with a shrug. He concluded his report on public safety saying multiple bids on debris removal were expected.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is still reviewing the Town’s request for public assistance, said Gregg. Approvals received are called “obligations” in FEMA-speak, and ultimately result in reimbursement at a rate of about 75%. The remaining 25% will be subject to state review.

Disaster Awareness Day is still scheduled for Wednesday June 13, but he added the 2-4 p.m. timeframe, and Kiawah’s town hall as the location to last month’s announcement. There will be no free lunch this year, but a wine reception is scheduled at the close of proceedings. The annual event will feature plenty of door prizes and giveaways, and the abbreviated schedule may enhance attendance for the critical event.

Council member John Wells said the Lowcountry Marine Mammal Network (LMMN) is all set to begin their one-year study on Seabrook. The group will focus on education about, and protection of, strand feeding dolphins on Seabrook beaches. Wells estimates 18-20 Seabrook residents have volunteered to help, but there’s room for more, he added.

Wells’ second announcement was the receipt of 5 additional bids (now at 8) in response to SITC’s RFP to address drainage/flooding issues along Seabrook Island Rd., with more on the way. Work should begin in the next month or so, and the job now includes two additional drainage boxes. Salvageable pipes will be lined with fiberglass and any that aren‘t will be replaced for a total distance of 385 feet. The same can be said of repairing/ replacing flapper gates.

Councilmember Jeri Finke said she didn’t have a report on community/ government relations, but did she? Two items recently reported by local media came into focus; members of the state legislature introduced a bill, which would approve drilling/seismic testing along SC’s coast, and the dumping of surplus munitions/chemicals in SC waters.

Forgetting the usual threat of damage from oil drilling or the effects of seismic testing on marine mammals for the moment, Finke is of the opinion that ancient weapons don’t mix well with seismic blasting.

Fearing Columbia’s legislation might allow U.S. Secretary of the Interior Zinke to drive a wedge between the governor’s public opposition to drilling/blasting and use it as an excuse to issue permits, Finke took the initiative.

She faxed a copy of Seabrook’s resolution against drilling/blasting to the legislators, along with some observations about unexploded ordinance. The rest of SITC nodded their approval.

Mayor Ciancio said he is looking for a more robust response to updating the town’s Comprehensive Plan. CPs are a required component of municipalities, typically designed to reflect those of parent governments. Compliance demands a review of CPs every five years and a full update every ten. “Seabrook is currently in year nine of our CP,” said the mayor, who continued by saying he intended to hold hearings, conduct polls and reach out to Seabrook residents in every way and at every turn.

The mayor updated attendees on his participation in the Johns Island Growth committee. Surveys conducted in 2007 assumed completion of I-526 and a population of 18,000. The current population of Johns Island is 21,000 and “the infrastructure simply isn’t there,” he said. He lamented the agenda’s 15 minutes of public comment lasted two hours with the common theme of unresponsive government, so Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg responded.

Tecklenburg has placed a hold on further development, but cautioned there are 6,500 permits already approved, and that is only the sliver of Johns Island which falls inside city limits.

 Mayor Ciancio concluded his report with two announcements; Seabrook and the St. Johns Fire District have agreed to use the same maps to facilitate communications after an evacuation, and there will be a Meet the Candidates night on May 30 featuring candidates for County Council District 9. The event is sponsored by both Seabrook and Kiawah, and will start at 2 p.m. at Kiawah’s town hall.

Town Administrator Joe Cronin had 4 announcements:

  1. Beach patrol begins May 1
  2. SITC will receive new Surface tablets to replace their iPads
  3. IT consultants VC3 will be adding bandwidth to accommodate the new tablets
  4. The appeal period for new FEMA flood maps has expired – 3 were filed and two of them were Seabrook residents

Jim Bannwart reported normal operations at the Seabrook Island Utility for the preceding month. He said the utility’s audit is underway, and the Department of Health and Environmental Control had not responded to a request from SIU for increased capacity.

SITC voted to approve a temporary use permit for the 2018 Governor’s Invitational Billfish tournament scheduled for May 9-12. It was later specified; visitors should use marked spaces ONLY, and NOT park along Andell Bluff Rd.

SITC then approved the use of Town Hall’s parking lot for the Seabrook yard sale scheduled for May 19 from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Ordinance 2018-04 was approved for a first reading.

Vacation homes contribute to Seabrook’s income in the form of licensing, and sidestepping the process through online ads dilutes the town’s finances. The measure requires a business license number be included on all online ads for vacation homes.

Ordinance 2018-05 was also approved for first reading. The measure allows the town to charge for use of public space. Asked if this included Seabrook’s yard sale, both the mayor and Cronin said it did, but welcomed the chance to clarify. Cronin said the fee was nominal.The objective is to ensure people clean up after themselves and could morph into a deposit, he added.

Ordinance 2018-03 was unanimously approved for a second reading. The measure changes 2731 Old Oak Walk from residential to conservation, and will ultimately be transferred to the Greenspace Conservancy.

During round two of citizens’s comments, Alison Blakey said she routinely sees beach patrol speeding on their way to and from their posts, and hoped SITC would say something about it.

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned to birthday cake in honor of SITC members Skip Crane and John Wells. The next meeting of the SITC will be May 22 at 2:30 p.m.

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