By Gregg Bragg, The Island Connection Sr. Staff Writer
iKiawah, (InsideKiawah.com), a privately run group email platform serving Kiawah residents, erupted with objections to news the Architectural Review Board (ARB) plans a major change of direction. The ARB, an adjunct of developer Kiawah Partners (KP) and the Kiawah Island Community Association (KICA), has filed paperwork for a road designed to cut between Duneside Dr. and Beachwalker Dr. According to a letter from the Kiawah Island Condo Owners Association (KICOA), the proposal would both circumvent the security gate, and create safety issues. Although residents of the Duneside I, II, and Sparrow Pond (West Beach) regimes would bear the brunt of the revision, KICOA has a long reach. Its announcement elicited a letter of objection from East Beach residents Ginny Abbott and Alan Brennecke to Kiawah town councilmember, Chris Widuch; “We strongly object to the opening of Duneside Road to through traffic from the Timbers Resort (and all future development west of the resort). This request by Kiawah Partners goes against the assurances that Amanda Mole of the ARB gave to the Duneside and Sparrow Pond neighborhoods.
The ARB, controlled by KP, has now reversed its decision,” says the letter. “This is a typical ‘bait and switch’ approach by the Kiawah Partners… Clearly, the desire of KP is to give their owners a backdoor entrance to the entire island without having any security check… It is time for the Planning Commission and the Town Council to draw the line. Enough is enough. Stand up for the current residents and the entire Kiawah community,” said the letter in part. Widuch replied the same day proclaiming support for his constituents in opposition to KP’s plan. Kiawah resident Jim Bannister doesn’t live in the proposed construction area, but rang the claxon with a note which read in part, “I view this entire open access situation as something which would be harmful to every property owner on Kiawah… Duneside Road area residents would be most affected, but we all have a dog in this fight… I speak from very distasteful experience. Some years ago, our former Kiawah home was illegally inhabited for several days, burglarized, and our vehicle stolen,” Bannister wrote. Closer to the fray, West Beach resident, KICOA Secretary, former KICA board chair, and Kiawah fire commissioner John Connolly echoed security concerns, and added detail to the safety issues complicated by the proposed road. Asked if this was entangled with the recent land swap during a call with The Island Connection, he said others had asked the same thing. “A year and a half ago my understanding was they [Timbers/KP] originally wanted the road to go through and the planning commission balked at that. And then they agreed and that is what is on the plat they have approved now,” Connolly said. “In my view this is all being driven by Timbers Kiawah. They do not have an understanding of or regard for our community, and … we’re going to fight this all we can. I was asked if I could come to a meeting with [KP representatives] Townsend Clarkson and Mark Permar to discuss the next phase of development in that area. When I showed up to the meeting [two weeks ago]… low and behold there was the sales rep for the Timbers. Then they drop on me that the road is going to go through… ,” said Connolly. He then shifted to the subject of safety concerns. “Safety and accident prevention are the key things for the fire department. If you look at that road, it’s an accident waiting to happen [especially] if you pour a lot more cars on it. It’s narrow with a blind curve at the end of the street, the pool’s right there. And we don’t have any bike paths so everyone goes to the beach by walking in the street,” said Connolly. He is joined by a chorus objecting to the change which includes iKiawah luminaries Sam Chapnick, Rhonnie Newton, and 30+ year Duneside property owner Paul Hacklisch. The developer’s representative did not respond to an email as of this writing, asking if rumors the existing contract was written in such a way it could be changed without planning commission approval. The mayor of Kiawah did, however, and threw in his position on the matter, for good measure. “There are different opinions about whether the Town’s hands are tied because, as you well understand, the private ownership of these roads by KICA and KP, make the issue of the Town’s authority unusually complicated,” Mayor Craig Weaver said in an email to the Island Connection. “It is an important question and one I am working to resolve. I absolutely do not support this change to the road plan and want to bring about the right end result for the community. I am especially concerned about the potential public safety impact of the current plan for these roads. The developer’s submission to the Planning Commission has been delayed a month, so that can give everyone some time to resolve this.” The mayor’s delay order puts several public meetings on the radar. The Town of Kiawah Island (TOKI) meets the first Tuesday of each month, and the planning commission meets every first Wednesday. The delay means the soonest the planning commission can address the issue is April 4 followed by town council review May 1. Detailed dates, times, agendas, and email addresses for TOKI officials are available on the town’s website KiawahIsland.org.