By Gregg Bragg, The Island Connection Sr. Staff Writer
Kiawah Partners’ intention to alter Duneside Dr. into a throughway to new development along Beachwalker resulted in a very public defeat last April. A phalanx of residents opposed the change on the grounds of both safety, and security considerations. They garnered emphatic support from elected officials at all levels, as well as the Kiawah Island Community Association. KICA said affected properties were “encumbered by recorded convents and restrictions” which precluded the idea, in a letter sent to Planning Commission (PC) Chair Fred Peterson.
KP subsequently withdrew their request before any of several re-scheduled Planning Commission confrontations could be held. Their formal withdrawal insisted the decision did not concede precedent, preserving the option to make similar requests in the future. Apparently, KP has since been working with KICA to make similar requests – in the exact same location.
Duneside residents were surprised to hear KICA executed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with KP on Nov. 20. Pitched as a victory, the MOU could be read two ways; KICA is going to build infrastructure mitigating safety concerns to facilitate the change/ future development in the area with KP contributing up to $100,000 or KP does the building and KICA will contribute up to $100,000.
Spending KICA/resident’s funds this way is unprecedented, especially while “special assessments” continue, and seemed to reaffirm the issue as an islandwide concern.
No less than 60 residents showed up on short notice to the resulting Planning Commission meeting held on Dec. 5. The request that took months to unfold earlier in the year, made it all the way to the floor of the PC in 2 weeks time, despite a holiday. PC Chair Fred Peterson set the stage by establishing a 2-minute time limit on citizen’s comments, and insisted presentations not include repeated information.
A dozen or more people spoke to committee members including Tip Jennings, Greg Kazinski, Ross Appel (attorney for Duneside I & II), Marilyn Larach, Rhonnie Newton, Shari Daldo, Andrew Greenspan, Wendy Kulick, Diane Lehder, Dave DeStefano, and Ginny Abbot. However, Kiawah Fire Commissioner and former KICA Board Chair John Connolly read a prepared statement.
“I think we all understand how challenging it can be dealing with an entity that doesn’t really care about Kiawah but exists to serve a group of indifferent investors who have no longterm vested interest in our island.
“Opening Duneside Rd. will absolutely have a negative impact on our long-valued, family-friendly walking community. The developers and their mercenaries want you to believe the impact will be inconsequential. Those of us who have called this area home for many years know it will be devastating. As they degrade our environment, it will impact our wellbeing… the safety of our families – spouses, children, grandchildren. The developer elects to dismiss these concerns by offering to throw some money at resolving safety issues when we don’t even have a clear picture of what needs to be done.
“We need TOKI-PC to request an Environmental Assessment of this proposal. We also need a professional Traffic Study, done independently from the developer, KICA, and even my own community, to offer an unbiased opinion on the number of vehicles we can expect on this winding, limited sight-line road. The developer is obviously bothered by the fact that pedestrians will be in the way. They probably would like a study as to how to make people disappear… But, why should we be concerned? After all, it’s only families and children that will be put at risk. It’s far better to maximize the Return on Investment for the developer’s investors.
“I understand that compromise is necessary, but what is on the table today is absolute overreach and unsupported by facts,” Connolly concluded. His comments echoed the concerns of others.
KP representatives didn’t speak during the comment period, but did respond directly to a question from committee member Andy Capelli. He wanted to know the “whys” and “why nows” of the request.
Mark Permar, architect of the Duneside plan, and KP spokesman said they filed when they did because of a better idea of West Beach and Resort improvements. The reason for the request is “it [the additional units planned] has greater value if it’s inside the gate,” said Permar.
The room eventually quieted, and the PC decided to defer a decision until Jan. 24, 2019.
The Island Connection has since learned a traffic study will be undertaken during the time between meetings.