By Gregg Bragg, The Island Connection Staff Reporter
Last month’s town council meeting of the Town of Kiawah Island (TOKI) set a record for brevity, which faded into memory on March 7th as Mayor Craig Weaver cautioned. This month’s meeting headed in the other direction, though it didn’t quite match some of the most protracted examples of the past. The agenda featured the return of executive session, the first of the new administration, and also highlighted a report delivered by Steve Traynum of Coastal Science & Engineering (CSE).
Everyone enjoys a good presentation and the CSE report may deserve some credit for the excellent attendance this month.
Approval of last month’s town council meeting minutes was unanimous and without a hitch. However, approval of the minutes of a town council workshop held on Jan. 26 and 27 hit a bit of a snag.
This set of minutes hadn’t been completed until earlier the same day, and weren’t posted to the web site until an hour before the meeting began. Consequently, council voted to defer approval until they had a chance to review. The mayor had no substantive update to share, and opened the first round of citizen’s comments with the caveat the first round was restricted to items listed on the agenda.
Kiawah resident and retired Judge Dennis McGill opened his remarks by saying he hoped the delay in posting minutes to the town council workshop from Jan. 26 and 27 would not become a pattern. He also asked if there were minutes from other workgroups which had not been posted, and asked if workgroups were different than committees and not required to keep minutes. He ended his remarks by congratulating the new council on their election and reiterated his belief council should consider some form of remuneration.
The mayor responded to McGill, saying that he felt the discrepancy in posting the minutes had been addressed by council’s vote to defer their approval.
Kiawah resident Wendy Kulick asked about one of the executive session items: discussion with the town attorney regarding the former town administrator and former town treasurer. Since neither are currently employees, Kulick didn’t feel the public should be prohibited from attending. She also wanted to know how many municipalities contributed to the health insurance for the employee’s portion of insurance premiums. The town administrator responded off the cuff, saying many municipalities covered the employee portion of premiums.
The mayor prefaced the Coastal Science and Engineering (CSE) presentation by saying a review of the damage wrought by Matthew was particularly pertinent to town council. He said council intends to check with the developer, the community association, the resort, and any other relevant parties about “what they want us to do.”
Steve Traynum, Coastal Physical Scientist, said CSE was established in 1984 with primary markets along the coasts of North Carolina and South Carolina. They were hired to work for TOKI in 2006, and have been annually monitoring and reporting to the town ever since. Traynum said Kiawah typically accretes 1 to 10 feet of sand per year in different parts of the island, but sporadic areas demanded re-nourishment projects in the past. The town spent $3.6 million in 2006 on the eastern end of Kiawah, and another $958,000 in 2014 in the same area. He noted the permits for 2014’s project were good for another two years should additional work be required. Additional highlights include:
1. No areas on the island are under threat of ongoing erosion, even those areas with least amount of setback (West Beach to Mariners Watch).
2. Sand loss from the dune system will be replaced by new sand from up coast, and because Kiawah is still considered a dry sand beach, wind action will help rebuild the dunes.
3. Erosion was widespread and is roughly equivalent to ten years of accretion
4. Dune erosion was higher along Captain Sam’s Spit.
5. No emergency action is presently recommended.
6. The area from west beach to Mariners Watch requires active monitoring but no action is recommended at the current time.
The full report up is available up on the town’s web site at this address https://www.kiawahisland.org/beachmonitoring-report/ Mayor Weaver followed up the presentation by reiterating council’s concern about the condition of the beach.
He said the walk overs (boardwalks) were big part of the aesthetic, and council was determined to get them all fixed. There are 140 private walk overs, 25 of which were deemed out of compliance following Matthew. He said the town intends to proactively file for permitting to install sand fencing, possibly along the entire length of the island. The Beach Club and the Ocean Course are already using sand fencing to great effect, for example. He reiterated the town would be talking to the developer and others about additional actions. The permitting process for sand fencing is far different from beach re-nourishment requests, and he seemed interested in preserving the option.
There was no old business, so attention turned to new business, featuring four new ordinances 2017-01-04. The measures are a follow up to a measure passed two years ago. Ordinance 2015-01 was enacted after the TOKI versus Strauchon Painters case was brought before Municipal Court, accused of a code violation. John L. Strauch, Chief Municipal Judge dismissed the case, saying he was not empowered to assess fines in civil matters. The previous TOKI attorney was determined to get $200 from Strauchon Painters. So he appealed the ruling, researched town statutes, drafted legislation, and prepared arguments for Town Council. He was confident the case would be overturned and 2015-01 would aid his case by establishing “legislative intent.” However, the town’s new attorney felt the past measure was inadequate, and recommended changing language from “Ordinance Violation Penalty” to “Fine” in four different places of the town’s code. The measures passed unanimously.
Council then voted unanimously to approve James Gilliam, Dave DeStefano, Warren Stannard, Joseph Kasman and Steve Sager to the newly formed Public Works committee. New business concluded with a unanimous vote to continue paying the entire “employee only” ($131.00 e.g. not the amount paid for spouse and dependent coverage) insurance premium for TOKI employees.
Stephanie Tillerson, town administrator, reported hiring Scott Cave to conduct emergency preparedness training for TOKI staff as well as interested council members, other partners including EMS, the community association, and the resort. She also reported the new town hall was still on schedule to be completed in late July or early August, and said that digitizing town documents, hiring a moving company and possibly shutting down town hall for a couple of days were all priority considerations.
Rusty Lameo reported hearing back from 10 of the 25 private owners whose boardwalks are currently deemed out of compliance with town code. “The other 15 have (apparently) decided to take advantage of the full year allowed to comply with town ordinances,” he said.
However, he has encouraged them to cut off or install stairs in the short term. He also said the drainage work being done at the intersection of Beachwalker and the Kiawah Island Parkway was 70 percent complete.
Councilmember Chris Widuch reported a new round of bidding for the new fire station was underway, but had great anecdote to add. He said the trailer intended as temporary housing during the construction had been held up because of an issue with the sprinkler system. Widuch then congratulated Bill Thomae a on his official gubernatorial appointment as Fire Commissioner of the Saint Johns Fire District. He concluded his report by saying that despite three recent changes/additions to the new municipal complex, the project was still ahead of budget.
Councilmember Diana Mezzanotte said the environmental committee had formed a subcommittee to study sea level rise before moving on to her Arts Council report. “There have been seven arts council events since the last meeting. Several were sold out. If you attended the last few events at Church of Our Savior (COOS) you would have noticed that the venue was packed. On Wednesday, March 22, the jazz vocalist Wesla Whitfield, will appear at the Turtle Point Clubhouse. Our piano bars – held at the Sandcastle – start this month too. The Arts Council is currently finalizing our Arts and Cultural Events selections for 2017/2018,” said Mezzanotte.
She also reported 26 major events curated by the arts council which is down from the 30 events in past years. The difference she said is partly budgetary and partly in an effort to get a handle on a very busy schedule. The complete list of events is available at the town’s web site https://www.kiawahisland.org/.
Councilmember John Wilson said he hopes the new chairman of the state infrastructure bank is more amenable to having roads on Johns Island that will benefit Kiawah. He also reported that the town of Charleston had allocated $195 million to complete I526, while the county had approved $125 million to assist. He also attended a meeting of the Berkeley Charleston Dorchester Council of Governments and spoke with Teddy Pryor. Pryor sits on the BCDCOG, and agreed to host Paul Roberts at the next public works meeting to discuss I526 and the cross island parkway he said, opening the way to the second round of citizen’s comments.
Wendy Kulick opened by asking how long executive session was going to be. She was informed the two items would take approximately 45 minutes, but with the caution that there was no way to tell. She then reiterated her long standing question, asking when previous questions would be answered by counsel.
She later told The Island Connection she has gone through the minutes from 2016 and found four pages of questions that have not been answered. She also asked when the Ninth Circuit Solicitor had been given a copy of the forensic report which indicted the former treasurer and administrator. The town administrator clarified John Wilson’s reply in an email which read “John mentioned that he misunderstood Wendy’s question. John was referring to the fact that we turned over everything to the FBI, and because SLED is working alongside the FBI, SLED also has copies of everything and/ or access to view everything we turned over to the FBI.”
Dennis McGill stepped up from the on deck circle with congratulations to fellow residents Diane Lehder, Marilyn Larach, Wendy Kulick, and Art Morgenstern for their valiant defense against the Kiawah Island Utility’s rate increase. He said he hadn’t been able to attend a meeting but read about it in The Island Connection.
He wondered why an attorney was necessary. “If the attorney has anything to say (they didn’t cover) I would be interested in hearing it,” he said.
The mayor was then asked if he intended to pursue permits for beach re-nourishment in the current calendar year. He hedged by repeating his comment that sand fencing was the only thing they were going to proactively pursue, and wasn’t certain about anything else.
Council then hibernated into executive session. When they came out, they adjourned the executive session and reopened the regular session of council.
There were two items on the agenda, but the only one they spoke to after executive session was the utility. Council voted unanimously to settle with Kiawah Island Utility, if the price was right. There being no further business, the three plus hour meeting was adjourned