By Gregg Bragg, The Island Connection Staff Writer
Roll call was taken, and all council members confirmed their attendance for September’s meeting of the Town of Kiawah Island.
The meeting was preceded by a public hearing on controversial ordinance 2016- 04, a measure to re-zone town hall for residential development (R3).
There had only been a Spartan crowd for the public hearing, but the ordinance was also on town council’s agenda for a second and final reading, and the room was brimming with attendees, who wasted no time commenting on the measure during the first installment of citizen’s comments.
Andi Capelli began by asking if 2016-04 could be deferred. He contended the R3 designation constituted an amendment to the original ordinance, which required approval of the county, Kiawah planning commission and the town’s attorney. The language they were using wasn’t in the original document, he said.
There are two ordinances for one property, he continued, and none of the approving bodies would be able to do so until the new language was included. The legal ramifications resulted in the town’s attorney weighing in and a long discussion followed. Council members pored over their notes, concluding the ordinance on the agenda was the same as the first reading. There had been no changes they said, the move was consistent with other, adjacent parcels and would not indulge the Capelli’s request to defer.
Kiawah resident Denise Klizek also objected to the measure. She is the third person from the Inlet Cove homeowners association to publicly oppose 2016-04 in the past few months. Inlet Cove is already beleaguered by traffic to and from Beachwalker Park, and residents there feel this would add to an already untenable situation. Klizek also spoke to a second rezoning measure on the agenda.
Ordinance 2016-06 would also designate the land owned by the National Christian Charitable Foundation, located on the opposing side of Beachwalker lagoon from town hall, as R3. Klizek preferred it be left natural.
Mayor Charles R. Lipuma responded to Klizek saying the town is responsible for controlling traffic along Beachwalker drive, “and we do,” he added. However, he also noted Beachwalker Park has 75 years remaining on its lease, and the town was already doing what it could to control traffic.
David DeStefano returned the discussion to addressing 2016-04, and wondered out loud where the R3 amendment had come from. “It just popped up,” he said. “It was never part of the deal [to sell the property to the Kiawah Island Community Association]. It looks like the town caved,” he concluded.
Wendy Kulick shifted the discussion back to the second parcel being rezoned (2016-06). Council member John Labriola joined her in speculating the National Christian Charitable Foundation probably did intend to sell the 1.9 acre parcel to the developer. The Kiawah Island Conservancy was in the house and started with a treat.
The town helped fund production of the conservancy’s “Loggerhead Sea Turtle Documentary,” and staff shared it with council at the conclusion of citizen’s comments. (The video, which details loggerhead nesting from start to finish, is available at kiawahconservancy.org under the Wildlife heading.)
Dick Fishburn, chair of the KIC Habitat Committee, also made a presentation of the “Pathways Program.” PP is an “app” available for download to your mobile device from either Google or the app store. The installed program will direct users to a growing number of interesting points all over the island. Approaching a destination prompts a narrator to chime in and tell you all about it. “Everyone who has used it enjoys the program,” Fishburn says. “It is an excellent way to recognize what is unique about Kiawah.” Council then turned to the business items on the agenda.
Ordinances 2016-04 and 2016-05 were slated for a second reading and elicited debate aplenty. Council member John Wilson, a former KICA board member, reiterated his objections to R3 zoning from last month. He was also adamant the tract should remain community property, and suggested an amendment that would remove the R3 zoning designation should KICA attempt to sell the property. Council member Craig Weaver, also a former KICA board member, added to his objections from last month. He reminded council Kiawah’s planning commission had voted against the move, adding “nowhere in the sales agreement does it say R3… if they [KICA] back away from the deal now, they would lose their earnest money… When we voted, R3 should have been made clear and it wasn’t,” he concluded.
Labriola countered saying a commercial designation wasn’t sufficient and would restrict KICA’s ability to expand. The measure passed on a 3-2 vote with Wilson and Weaver voting against the action.
New business included the first readings of ordinance 2016-06 to allow TOKI to issue $3 million in general obligation bonds to help fund the new municipal center, ordinance 2016-07 and 2016-08 to rezone the parcel (described above) to R3.
All three passed unanimously. The council also voted unanimously to employ Pelican Cleaning Services for janitorial services.
Pelican’s bid came in at a fraction of other responders, and while some on council expressed “you get what you pay for” type concerns, all agreed to give Pelican a go.
Wilson was first with a committee report. He said auditors had presented a draft of their 2015-2016 analysis. Wilson said the report was generally good, but the town’s pension liability had gone up “considerably.” The town has been hiring new people with the obvious impact on pension planning. Additionally, the state has overestimated the rate of return on its pension investments, according to Wilson.
He added the town is still reviewing some of the recommended control items recommended by auditors (e.g. access to funds) as well as risk assessment and mitigation.
Labriola said the new municipal center was three weeks behind schedule but didn’t seem alarmed by the delay. Part of the problem is tapping into the waterline.
Drawings of the existing line did not reflect the addition of lanes on Betsy Kerrison and the line is now under the pavement. The delay will cost an additional $35,000, which was approved by Ways & Means.
Reporting on public safety, council member Weaver said the county had increased their emergency services budget, which means more personnel and equipment for Kiawah. Charleston County now has a quick response vehicle on/around Kiawah and reaction times to emergencies have come down, he said.
Although response time does not include transportation to the hospital, Weaver seemed to think the town was moving in the right direction with more first responders on site, combined with the contract with AirMedCare. He also reminded council of the upcoming additions to the fire department facilities on Kiawah, which will also mean more people and equipment available to the island.
Council member Mary Johnson reported the beginning of the new season for Arts Council events, starting with several piano bar sessions throughout September. Additional events have been scheduled, and a complete listing is available through the town.
The mayor awarded kudos to Stephanie Braswell for the “great job” she did during Hurricane Hermine. He then announced the opening of election season on Kiawah.
Filings must be received by Oct. 6 and include $25, if you are planning to run for a seat on council, and $50 if you want to be mayor [non-refundable]. The Kiawah election will be held Dec. 6. Interested parties should visit town hall for more information. Alas, none of the current council members commented on their intentions.
The second round of citizen’s comments was just as colorful as the first. Capelli was back to express his disappointment with the vote on rezoning ordinance 2016-04.
He said the final form of the measure had not been presented to Kiawah’s planning commission, had not been approved, and the county had not received a copy of the final plan either.
The mayor responded saying “town council approves ordinances. The planning commission does not.”
Kulick wanted to know:
1. If the [agenda items only] restriction on the first round of citizen’s comments could be lifted, assuming the allotted 30 minutes was not used.
2. Why Sullivan’s Island could build a new town hall for $3.9 million in the heart of their downtown while Kiawah was spending $12 million [plus the interest on $3 million], a. Labriola responded saying Sullivan’s Island already owned the land [Kiawah paid $2 million] and Kiawah was required to do site prep Sullivan’s Island didn’t have to do.
3. Is TOKI going to take any sort of action on flooding/climate change similar to Seabrook or Tybee Island in Georgia?
4. Is TOKI going to announce the availability of positions on any of the several ad hoc committees recently formed?
5. When TOKI would respond to the many questions asked of them by citizens each month. She asserted any questions not answered on the spot fell off the radar.
David DeStefano stood to express his disappointment with the passage of ordinance 2016-04. He’d had a chance to think about the similar upgrade provided by ordinance 2016-06 and said “it’s like you’re trying to rationalize one decision with another. You’re giving them [KICA] a $3.5 million piece of land for $1.575 million. They [KICA] will sell this property in a heartbeat if they build on Rhetts Bluff,” he said.
The mayor responded saying the R3 designation was not self-serving. Hearing no further comments, he then adjourned the meeting.