By Katy Calloway, The Island Connection Managing Editor
Kiawah Island Town Council convened April 2 with the Mayor and Councilmembers in high spirits.
Minutes of the 2019 Strategic Planning Retreat, held January 23 and 24 were approved with no changes or comments, as well as the minutes from the last council meeting held March 5.
The Mayor’s Update was brief, bringing the group up to speed with the Kiawah Island Utility saga. At the end of 2018 the Utility had filed for a rate adjustment increase of nearly 10% to both water and sewer services. The Town, along with the St. Johns Fire District, was an intervener in that case. The Mayor reported that the SJFD agreed to a stipulated agreement to the rate case, resulting in a rate increase in the neighborhood of 6.25-6.5%. The Town declined to join into the stipulated agreement, disagreeing with the proposed rate of return as well as the fire district hydrant fees that the Town felt disadvantaged Kiawah rate payers. The Public Safety Commission should conclude with a directive around the 15th of April.
Citizen’s comments welcomed Wendy Kulick to the podium. Kulick spoke to the proclamation of National Beach Safety Week, upcoming on the agenda. She suggested that the language include the need to adhere to the Town’s leash laws, that she feels will strengthen the Town’s legal position.
Regarding charitable contributions, Kulick stated that she feels most people appreciate the Town’s contributions and urged council to approve all of the considerations, especially the ones pertaining to children.
The Mayor then noted a change to the agenda: the proposal to approve the construction contract for Beachwalker Drive improvements was not recommended at the Ways & Means Committee meeting, therefore would not be up for a vote at the Council meeting.
Jim Jordan gave a presentation on the Municipal Center’s Native Plant Demonstration Project. Jordan, described the project’s need and benefits; for example, bobcat numbers are decreasing, which equates to deer population increases. The demonstration project hopes to illustrate what residents can do on their properties to help keep the island’s ecosystem in balance, showcasing how beautiful and successful these results can be. The Town’s program, Grow Native, was unveiled in 2018 to increase the use of native plants across the island with the overall goal of increasing native habitat.
Councilmember Widuch was, “not overly enthusiastic.” He expressed that given the program will be funded with ATAX dollars, he will probably be persuaded, however he doesn’t see that the demonstration gardens and trail will be utilized by residents and visitors. Mayor Weaver then asked that councilmembers give Jordan their thoughts over the next several weeks. Weaver offered his support for the Grow Native initiative, but asked what would be done to promote the experience. Jordan was invited to return to Council with a proposal to move forward with the project.
Mayor Weaver declared Beach Safety Week at the commencement of the busy summer beach season, May 20-27, with hopes that visitors will take initiative to protect themselves and their children while enjoying Kiawah beaches.
New business included the consideration of charitable gifts. Sea Island Habitat for Humanity was approved at $10,000, Kiawah Women’s Foundation was approved for $7,000.
$9,424 was added to the applications to the Kiawah Cares Foundation for Mt. Zion school, bringing the total balance of charitable gifts to $150,000. The balance of the funds listed on the charitable contribution page was then approved unanimously. This statement can be found on the Kiawah Island website.
Stephanie Tillerson gave the Town Administrator’s report, stating that an offer has been made to fill the co-compliance officer position. Tillerson hopes to officially announce that person at the May meeting.
Tillerson stated that broad language from the Sea Level Rise report is being incorporated into the Town’s comprehensive plan. Ultimately, this will come to Council to be officially adopted into the plan.
A work group is convening to investigate a potential ban on plastics. The county ban will affect residents in Cassique, but Kiawah would like to use the county ban as a foundation and consider the unique needs of Kiawah Island in addressing if/ how/when to move forward.
Councilmember Maryanne Connelly thanked the staff for their thoughtful work with the charitable gifts program. She added that Public Safety is working on drone regulations, in consideration with KICA and their regulations.
With no further business to discuss, Council moved into executive session to receive legal advice and discuss a personnel matter. Upon their return, no decisions or votes were made or taken.
The next meeting of the Kiawah Island Town Council will be May 7 at 2 p.m.