By Gregg Bragg, The Island Connection Sr. Staff Writer
The Aug. 17 issue of The Island Connection featured Timbers Kiawah (TK) and its intent to be good neighbors. That issue of the newspaper had just gone to print, when reports of lights on the beach started arriving. Kiawah resident Paula Feldman called the Town of Kiawah Island (TOKI) to report the latest incident on Monday, Sept. 13. It was the second time she called this summer, and TOKI staff member Bruce Spicher told her this was TK’s fourth time being reported.
“Sea Turtles Dig the Dark” makes a nice bumper-sticker and sends a vital message.
Mother turtles navigate by light, moving towards moonlight reflected on the Atlantic as they leave their nest. If there are bright lights on the beach, the mothers can become disoriented, and get lost in the dunes (or in one case, in a lagoon at the golf course.) Hatchlings also head toward light once they emerge from the nest. Artificial light may send them to predators in the dunes, and away from the relative safety of the Atlantic. The Town’s light ordinance has been on the books longer than most can remember. It was always more of an insistent reminder but this time, TOKI staff told Feldman there would be a fine of $400.
“We understand the impact artificial lights have on loggerhead sea turtles and want to assure the local community, Turtle Patrol and the Town of Kiawah Island that complying with the Town’s ordinances for beach lighting is of the utmost importance to us. During construction, procedures have been put in place to comply with the ordinance until we open, and we are responding immediately to comply with any infractions from the Town of Kiawah. We want to go above and beyond to meet the Town’s ordinance. We will continue working with the proper parties to ensure the protection of Kiawah’s wildlife and look forward to setting an example for loggerhead sea turtle conservation in the community. We will be offering loggerhead sea turtle education programs for owners, which will be available on an ongoing basis once the property opens this October,” read the statement from TK spokesman Chris Burden. The lights continued to shine the following week, and the reason may be a glitch in the Town’s ordinance.
TOKI staff members Jim Jordan/ Bruce Spicher later threw the ticket out saying the light ordinance was legally unenforceable, during a meeting of the Town’s Environmental Committee held the week following the incident.
Asked for confirmation, Town Administrator Stephanie Tillerson said in an email, “Staff has some concerns with some of the wording in the current Beachfront Lighting Ordinance (BLO), and the enforceability of certain sections in said Ordinance. Therefore, the ticket that was issued to Timbers Kiawah was voided.
“The ticket was rescinded by Bruce Spicher, Development Service Manager who oversees Code Enforcement. Jim Jordan is working with the Environmental Committee to strengthen and fix the BLO. The hope is the amended BLO will go before Council for consideration and approval at the September or October Town Council meeting for First Reading,” Tillerson continued.
“Timbers Kiawah was cited for previous violations, but they all were related to subcontractors not having business licenses and the matter was resolved. Your reference to Timbers being charged for their fourth violation for TOKI Lighting Ordinance is not current. That was their first ticket issued by the Town in possible violation of the BLO, and again that ticket was rescinded,” Tillerson said.
Kiawah resident Beverly Gholson attended the Environmental Committee meeting. “I am on the Environmental Committee for the Town of Kiawah. I brought Paula’s concerns about the Timbers lighting to the committee. Jim Jordan told us that the Timbers had been issued a ticket on that issue the day before… We worked on a revised Beach Lighting Ordinance. Later we were sent another revision to the ordinance, which was much stronger based on our comments. That is really all I know firsthand. I have heard other things about [past] tickets [also] being torn up, etc. but it is not firsthand and being a lawyer, I take it with a grain of salt (or maybe I remember playing telephone as a child),” she said in an email to The Island Connection.
TOKI council meetings are held the first Tuesday of each month. Contact information for councilmembers is available, as well as a list of Environmental Committee members on the Town’s website.
For more information visit KiawahIsland.org.