By Gregg Bragg, The Island Connection Staff Writer
The July council meeting for the Town of Kiawah Island (TOKI) began on the heels of a hearing to rezone parts of the island owned by the Kiawah Island Golf Resort (KIGR).
Dignified, passionate debate, largely from residents of the Courtside Villa regime, suggested not everyone was on-board with a new conference center planned for construction near East Beach. The hearing consumed all of its allotted half hour. Three sets of minutes were briskly approved at the beginning of the council meeting, two of which were from public hearings related to the same rezoning measures.
The mayor’s update began with some logistics on completion of the new town hall. He gave a grin while repeating the town administrator’s promise that the old town hall would be closed on August 3 and 4 so the administration could move to the new location on Betsy Kerrison Rd.
The mayor also said open houses would be scheduled for September 7 and 8. “Since the next meeting of council is scheduled for the [August] first, we will be meeting here [old town hall] for the last time,” said the mayor.
Kiawah resident Wendy Kulick used her time during the first round of citizens’ comments to thank TOKI and council member Widuch in particular, for help with traffic safety. Kulick has consistently expressed concerns about speed limits in front of the new town hall. To summarize, the acceleration lane from the traffic circle off the island is right in front of the entrance to the new town hall and to a proximate degree, so is the returning deceleration lane into the traffic circle. Widuch has been addressing the matter as chair of the public safety committee.
Dave Adams from Kiawah’s Courtside Villas, fresh from the public hearing, asked why the new conference center couldn’t occupy the same footprint as the existing space at East Beach. There was no immediate response but Adams’ comments would be addressed later in the meeting. “We got steamrolled,” he later told The Island Connection. The “new business” spot on the agenda was replaced by the title “consent agenda.”
TOKI has often voted on similar items as a group and decided to make it official this month. There were six ordinances in the category numbered 2017-10, 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18. The array of measures updated zoning maps, TOKI’s Comprehensive Plan, language in the 2010 development agreement with KIGR, and extension of the same. Details are available by searching TOKI’s website, KiawahIsland.org/.
The measures passed unanimously, and discussions after the vote were a protracted affair designed to address the concerns of both council and residents.
Debate highlights included a summary delivered by the mayor:
1. The measures incorporate a parcel in Ocean Park purchased by KIGR from Kiawah Development Partners (KDP) in 2015.
2. Time limits on restoration were set if the existing conference center at East Beach is demolished.
3. Extension of the development agreement between TOKI and KIGR until 2027.
4. Planned discussions between the Kiawah Island Community Association (KICA) and KIGR for relocation of the intersection on Sparrow Pond Rd. This caveat allows for changes but any change in footprint would have to be approved separately.
5. There is no increase in the number of dwelling units at the Ocean Course.
6. No change in population density.
7. Councilmember Wilson chimed in to say he anticipates KIGR will include an appropriate barrier between the new conference center and Courtside. He added that KIGR has always done a first
class job in every endeavor.
“We think this addition is a good thing in its totality. [Although] KICA owns the roads, KIGR is conducting a traffic study. [Roads surrounding] Duneside and the Sandcastle will improve. We did listen to you, and the issues you raised are still being discussed,” concluded the mayor before moving on to new business. TOKI voted unanimously to:
1. A one year extension of the contract with Carolina Waste.
2. Select Summit Building Services, Inc. for janitorial services.
3. Select Integral Solutions Group to provide IT support with a contract estimated at $38,000/yr.
4. Approve their new accounting and policies procedures (e.g. who gets credit cards and for what limits).
5. Continue discussions on the new employee handbook;
a. Who should deal with the media. The first person to answer the phone or…
b. Tuition reimbursement
c. Paid time off, etc.
The town administrator reported the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had approved approximately $160,000 of expenses foisted on TOKI by Matthew. She characterized this as the “public” portion of costs incurred, and said the remainder (approximately $500,000) was being appealed.
Council member Widuch reported there would be a walkthrough of temporary living quarters for fire fighters at station 6 (Flyway/Governors). Assuming it passes inspection, he expects demolition of the existing building to begin later this or early next month. Constructing the new building should take about a year. He also reported the new municipal building was still on schedule and under budget.
Council member Wilson said he recently attended an “interesting” meeting of the Charleston Area Transportation Study. He said Main road had become something of a priority for the group.
Wilson thinks the “flyover” at main and 17 is a “done deal,” but indicated it may take some time for the project to ramp up.
He also said the group mentioned “vague” plans to improve traffic on River and Bohicket roads. He seemed glad it was on their minds even if a plan hadn’t gelled.
Wilson seemed upbeat on the issue of completing I-526 after attending a meeting of the State Infrastructure Bank.
“Although our representative voted against it,” said Wilson, Charleston’s mayor favors the project, which he portrayed as good news.
Council member Mezzanotte reported the Festival of Mountain Music, the first of the new season for the Arts Council, was attended by approximately 400 people. Details on the new season and upcoming events can be found by visiting KiawahIsland.org/events/.
Wendy Kulick was back for the second round of citizen’s comments and asked if the 2005 development agreement with KDP had also been extended. She was informed in a “best guess” sort of way the new expiration date was now 2023. She then asked if the new town hall would have signs prohibiting concealed weapons.
Council member Wilson reminded her concealed weapons were already prohibited in all municipal buildings.
She countered by saying that didn’t really stop anyone, who was already armed. The mayor said TOKI would consider it.
Kulick concluded her time by asking if there was an update on the case against the former TOKI treasurer and administrator. She also wanted to know if TOKI was aware of a statute of limitations on a possible civil suit against the pair. The mayor had no update.
Kiawah resident and KIGR CEO Roger Warren anchored citizen’s comments. He thanked TOKI for the zoning changes, applauded the completeness of the process, and didn’t duck the concerns expressed by his Courtside neighbors. “We will take those [concerns] into account,’ he said before reaffirming the resort’s commitment to five star, well, everything. “I’ll be really surprised if property values go down,” he said.
Following up on last month’s report, The Island Connection asked if TOKI was able to complete a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request made 15 months ago.
The email being requested was sent by the previous mayor to representatives of KICA threatening legal action to void their lease with the town, if they didn’t agree to buy town hall for a specified price. It was read by this reporter as well as Wendy Kulick, and was publicly acknowledged twice, including the February 2016 meeting of TOKI town council. Letters/emails from the mayor and the town’s attorney say the email no longer exists. There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.