By Katy Calloway, The Island Connection Editor
The Oct. 3 meeting of the Town of Kiawah opened with an air of anticipation as it was announced that the meeting was live and in color for the test of the new broadcast system. Subsequent meetings will be streamed on-line and archived on the TOKI website.
After the screen test started rolling, business got underway with a unanimous approval of last month’s minutes and some comments from concerned citizens.
Wendy Kulick was first at the podium to question upcoming agenda items VII A. and C. regarding short-term rental permitting and regulations and digging holes on the beach, respectively. She questioned the input received from rental agencies and KICA regarding the short term rental ordinance, and the ability to pass an ordinance that isn’t enforceable.
“You can hardly enforce the dog leash ordinance,” stated Kulick. Several other citizens voiced concern about prohibiting digging holes on the beach.
Emily Sojchek of Greene, Finney and Horton presented the Town’s audit report stating, “The Town is in good financial condition as of June 30.” There is a General Fund balance of $6.9 million, decrease of $839,000 from last year, but still “very healthy” in Sojcheck’s opinion, describing an adequate General Fund balance that exceeds two months expenses. Revenues were $551,000 over budget, a $343,000 increase from last year, attributed to licensing and permits, and FEMA reimbursements. Expenses were $5.3 million for 2017, a $209,000 increase from 2016 and attributed to storm cleanup efforts. Overall TOKI reported $9.3 million in revenue and $14 million in expenditures for fiscal year 2017.
Next the Town got down to new business, with the first reading of several ordinances. The Mayor reminded council that ordinances get two readings, with opportunities to comment and make changes as needed.
Bruce Spicher, Building Official, in response to a request from the Public Safety committee, proposed short-term rental permit and regulations which had been composed in 1993 and needed to be updated. The new ordinance was driven by public safety issues, instead of the nuisance ordinance that was originally drafted. Siting over 1300 rental properties on the island, the new law states a limit of 2 vehicles in the driveway and emergency vehicles must be able to access single family homes from distance no greater than 25 feet. St Johns Fire District will be responsible for inspection and owners will have 30 days to come into compliance following failed inspections. In addition, fire extinguishers must be installed under kitchen cabinets. Homeowners will be responsible for compliance to codes, not the rental agency.
Mayor Weaver commented that one of issues he would like to see addressed is maximum capacity of two people per bedroom, “There are a number of rental agencies that routinely advertise higher capacity than what is legally allowed” and that “Some short term rentals are being stuffed.” The first reading of Ordinance 2017-09 passed unanimously.
The second item was Ordinance 2017-19 to amend Section 8-112, Yard Debris. Again, Spicher was responding to a request from Public Safety regarding waste removal for residents. It seems that landscape workers are bringing yard debris from other jobs, namely on Seabrook Island, and dumping it on Kiawah where crews routinely collect curbside debris. The new ordinance will require landscapers to take it off island for disposal. “This does not reflect on the homeowner doing his own yardwork,” assured Spicher.
Weaver questioned the necessity of the amendment stating, “My understanding this was always our policy, that landscapers understood they should be removing their stuff. Is this a major change for most landscapers?” “Currently maybe 10% of contractors take their debris with them. The ordinance is a means to enforce the rules,” responded Rusty Lameo from the Public Works department. Spicher assured Council that every new ordinance has an education piece and that word would spread quickly among contractors regarding the new requirements. The motion to approve the first reading of Ordinance 2017-19 passed unanimously.
The third item, first reading for Ordinance 2017-20, prohibiting the digging of holes on the beach, was introduced with photos on the big screen, illustrating the need for the ordinance: the guy who dug huge trenches for the turtles to find their way and the grown man standing neck deep in a hole. Research was done on other coastal community ordinances from NJ, FL and CA and found that most of the ordinances were not being adequately enforced. Panama City, FL simply prohibits metal shovels from being brought on the beach.
Kiawah’s new rule will model that. This applies to full size, metal shovels and not children’s beach toys.
Jim Jordan, Kiawah’s Wildlife Biologist in charge of Beach Management took the podium to discuss the amendment of Section 16-406, Beach Walkovers. The ordinance has been rewritten. New boardwalks are currently regulated by SC Department of Health and Environmental Control, and have to be up to code. The new ordinance acknowledges this. According to Jordan, “What DHEC doesn’t have is a way to deal with existing boardwalks that have come out of compliance, so that’s where the original town ordinance came from.”
There are approximately 170 beach walkovers on the island, and in the past two years storms have damaged many of them. One issue is that they protrude too far out past shoreline. TOKI did not have an ordinance to deal with unsafe boardwalks or walkovers in disrepair, and no way to require homeowners to fix those. Proposed changes to the new law include:
• Boardwalks are divided into two categories: private and community
• For existing private boardwalks in state of disrepair, the owner receives a written notification, has 30 days to submit work plans and 60 days to perform the work
• For community boardwalks, (many of which are too far back in dunes and increase the volume of traffic walking through the dune), owners will receive written notification and have 30 days to submit a work plan and 120 days to complete it
The time frame was discussed and the clarification was made that boardwalks don’t need to be rebuilt in 60 days, just brought out of a state of disrepair.
A motion was made to approve the first reading and it passed unanimously. Jordan then addressed the beach re-nourishment project which is underway.
The motion to approve $275,000 for beach re-nourishment passed unanimously, as did the motion to authorize TOKI to enter into agreement with RE Goodsen Construction to perform two phases of sand scraping. And finally under new business, Stephanie Tillerson, Town Administrator, had her contract renewed for a two-year agreement with an option for an additional year. The new contract recommends a $116,000 salary, which reflects a raise of $14,000. The motion passed unanimously and Tillerson’s new contract goes into effect Nov. 1.
Committee updates were brief and included Councilmember Widuch’s public safety report that studies for the helipad feasibility report concluded it be left “as is.” Councilmember Wilson reported that the BCD Council of Governments was on Kiawah Island for a presentation on four lane transportation. Options to improve transportation include the completion of 526. And Councilmember Mezzanote reported from the Visitors Bureau that Frontier Airlines is expanding its nonstop service from Charleston to Denver and Chicago, among other places. From her seat on the Environmental Committee she reported that there were a total of 333 turtle nests on Kiawah this season.
After a few brief comments from citizens the meeting adjourned at 4:31 p.m. The next meeting of the Kiawah Town Council will be Nov. 7 at 2 p.m.