There was no quorum, but the Council went over a few items.
Chairman Chris Cannon opened the meeting by stating that “There’s nothing really going on, which is great,” and noting that he hasn’t needed to go to any Council meetings by either the City or County. He did report that a PUD (Planned Unit Development) was applied for in the area behind Spacey’s Tooth at the corner of Maybank and Meek’s Farm Road, but the request was withdrawn at the last City Planning Commission meeting.
Also during the County BZA meeting, Cannon reported that there was an application at 4474 Betsy Kerrison Blvd. for a commercial dock. The area is located behind the Stringfellow property across from Rosebank Farms.
In terms of the ongoing issue of placing an “alternate merge” sign at the base of the Stono Bridge on the Johns Island side, Cannon stated that he has still not heard back from the SC DOT. Cannon also asked Rebecca Slinker at the City of Charleston about the Platt Heating sign on the side of Maybank Road and whether or not its placement is legal. He is expecting to hear back in a day or so. There is some debate over whether the land is in the City of Charleston or is County property.
In terms of the upcoming County elections, Cannon reported that the only two races that will apply to Johns Island are the race for House Representative for District 116 and the County Council District 8 race. Cannon hopes to bring in candidates during future meetings to debate their positions.
Traffic and transportation presentation
“I’ve been working on collecting statistics on transportation, traffic, accidents and fatalities on the island,” said Council member Rich Thomas, Chair of the Johns Island Transportation Committee. “What the data says is that the problems on the roads are not the roads, it’s the drivers’ behavior.”
Thomas, along with Kate Parks of the Coastal Conservation League, gave a brief presentation on the traffic situation on Johns Island, including visual maps of traffic fatalities on the island from 2001 – 2009.
Contributing factors to the 32 traffic fatalities from 2001-2009 show that “too fast for conditions” and “under the influence” are the top reasons for fatalities on the island, followed by “running off the road” and “over correcting/over steering”, Thomas noted, quoting from data collected from the Department of Public Safety in Columbia. “When you’re driving on a rural road, you should know that you need to be a little safer and take precautions.”
“I noticed in the fatality data that it accounts for pedestrians and bicyclists hit by cars, as well,” said Kate Parks, pointing out that one of reasons for accidents was ‘dark, non-visible clothing’. “Driving more safely and carefully should help to address these issues,” she said. Parks also pointed out that she specifically made sure that all of the data displayed in the presentation was specifically from Johns Island and did not include the Main/Highway 17 intersection in rural West Ashley. At the same time, she noted that the reason the data begins in 2001 is because the Public Safety department did not include latitude/longitude locations of the accidents before 2001 and she couldn’t accurately verify any accidents before that date as occurring on Johns Island.
“What you see are these clusters [of accidents] happening at intersections,” said Thomas, indicating accident markers at Maybank/River, Maybank/Main, Edenvale/River, and other major island intersections. “This is where the concentration of traffic is, so traffic management, traffic control and law enforcement are what can address this behavior.”
When asked about the Cross Island Greenway, Thomas replied that “A cross island road is just a venue for more of these accidents. It’s like putting a better smoking room in a cancer ward. You build a new two lane road and let people drive it at 60, 70 miles per hour and you’re still going to have these accidents.” He noted later that the new road proposes to address transitive traffic, not residential traffic. “As a resident, I say that’s not quite right. Why should I have to give up my neighborhood, my neighbor’s property, my property, for someone else? What we can do is ask the County, ask the Sherriff to enforce the law, monitor the traffic and do something about the problems as they exist today.”
“We moved here two years ago because we love the environment on Johns Island,” Thomas stated. “But you start building roads and you wind up with more development. Our future transportation choices shape the land use of our island.”
In conclusion, Thomas passed out a letter that he drafted to send to County Council, asking them to assign more police surveillance to the Johns Island roads, and asked the Johns Island Council to join him in signing it. “The island’s goals should be the safety of local roads through law enforcement and intersection improvements,” said Thomas. “We should put forth a very clear message, asking for these rational things that can be done in an immediate fashion and move it forward.”
Councilman Thomas Legare congratulated Rich Thomas on his presentation and letter, noting that the Council should send it out and ask the Wadmalaw Council as well as the council and property owners groups on Kiawah and Seabrook to sign it, as well. “We need to address this immediately on a county and state level,” said Legare. “We need to keep beating this drum. We can start this”
The next Johns Island Council meeting will be held on May 6 at 7 p.m. in the Berkeley Electric Co-Op building located at 3351 Maybank Highway. For more information, call Chairman Chris Cannon at 343-5113.