By Katy Calloway, The Island Connection Managing Editor
After routine opening procedures, the Kiawah Town Council meeting got underway with all councilmembers in attendance. Mayor Weaver’s report included notice that 2018 is a municipal election year and the mayor’s office and all the councilmembers are up for re-election. The candidate filing period opened Sept. 4 at noon and runs through noon Oct. 5. There is a $50 fee for the mayor’s position and $25 to file for council elections. Kiawah elections take place on Tuesday, Dec. 4 and voting occurs at the Kiawah Island Municipal Center.
The third meeting of the Johns Island Growth Management Committee of which Mayor John Tecklenberg and County Councilmember Lou Rawls are the co-sponsoring took place on Tuesday, August 28. Mayor Weaver cited this as a “much more useful meeting,” than the two occurring previously. The focus was on identifying an array of infrastructure projects that are either approved or envisioned for Johns Island. The committee was charged with prioritizing the projects and citizens were invited to weigh on the issues. The biggest current issue on Johns Island seems to be drainage and Mayor Weaver expressed concern over how that will be resolved.
The Mayor’s final point was that the solid waste fee scheduled has been changed and is experiencing some issues with respect to HOAs, which in the past required back door service. They are working with HOAs to determine if they should have curb service, some have agreed that residents can pick and choose, others are still deciding. The issue is moving forward.
Finally, Mayor Weaver congratulated the new Sandcastle Community Association on the new pool project.
Wendy Kulick made her first appearance during citizen’s comments. Kulick congratulated the Sea Level Rise Committee on the work, analysis and research they conducted to compile the report to be presented at this meeting. She then expressed concern over what she called a “violation to the Freedom of Information Act,” by the Town Administrator and the Mayor in refusing to release the Sea Level Rise Committee report prior to today’s meeting.
Her final question was if the Mayor and Councilmembers intend to run for re-election. They all declined to answer.
Mayor Weaver defended the decision not to release the report prior to today by stating, “I felt it best that we not publicly release the document until the Town Councilmembers themselves and also the other entities like the Community Association and ARB had a chance to see it.”
Two presentations were then given, the first from Town Planner, John Taylor who updated Council on the CHATS (Charleston Area Transportation Study) team.
CHATS compiled a ranking list of projects including the proposed Sea Island Parkway, that came in at number 60 out of mid-block, widening improvement projects and the Maybank and River Rd. intersection which ranked 26 and the Betsy Kerrison and Bohicket Rd. intersection which ranked 37 out of a list of 43 intersection improvements.
The CHATS project serves the tri-county area with a long-range transportation plan, (2040). Now that projects have been prioritized, the next steps include drafting a document plan that includes financial expectations and then reviewing and approving it. There was some discussion among Council about expressing opinions and the ability, (or lack thereof) to influence infrastructure priorities. No action was taken by Council.
The Mayor introduced the second presentation by acknowledging and appreciating the year and a half of work that has gone into the Sea Level Rise report. He stated that no action would be taken by Council. Future meetings between the Town, KICA Board and ARB to discuss the content of the report would be scheduled.
Councilmember Diane Mezzanotte recognized the highly qualified members of the Environmental Committee including Dr. John Lefler, who Chaired the Sea Level Rise Committee. All meetings were open to the public and meeting minutes were published. Mezzanotte stated the intention of the report is to equip the community leaders to be proactive and not reactive to the impending circumstances, and to protect property owners through future decision-making.
The Committee planned around the intermediate-high scenario, which is 1.5-2.5 feet of additional sea level rise over the next 30-50 years, the same scenario that is being used by the City of Charleston for their planning purposes. The report will need to be updated and maintained, as the scientific data is refreshed every 4 years. The report examines several flooding events that may contribute to sea level rise including rain induced flooding, tidal or nuisance flooding and storm surge, which is a temporary elevation of sea level for an indeterminate amount of time that may spread over hundreds of square miles. The complete report addresses causes, concerns and recommendations and is available online at kiawahisland.org.
Mayor Weaver expressed no doubt that sea level rise is an issue for communities up and down the coast and feels confident that Kiawah has some conclusions and recommendations that they can, “really get our arms around.”
There was no old business, so Council moved on to new business, which began with the first reading of Ordinance 2018-12 to amend article 16, Chapter 1 on beach lighting. Biologist Jim Jordan highlighted the need to prohibit artificial lights on the beach that distracts nesting sea turtles and hatchlings. The original ordinance was adopted in 1991 and echoes other beachfront municipalities’ ordinances. The proposed amendment focuses on lighting that points towards or is visible from the beach and makes the law more enforceable. Jordan identified 3 problem areas on the island: the Ocean Course, the Beach Club and the West Beach area, from the County Park down to Eugenia. Existing buildings would have 6 months to come into compliance with the new regulations. Council recommended that stakeholders be solicited for input before the next meeting. First reading was unanimously approved.
Town Administrator Stephanie Tillerson had no report.
Councilmember updates included the Public Safety Committee report by Councilmember Widuch, who stated construction on Fire Station 6 should be completed by Nov. 19. Preparatory work is being done on Station 4 and construction should start at the end of Jan. 2019. A vacancy on the St. Johns Fire Department Commission will be posted in October on the County website.
Councilmember Wilson reported on the Public Work’s Committee having received 3 proposals to expand Beachwalker Dr. Selection will be recommended this month and the project will move to Ways & Means for approval. It is hoped that the project can be completed before Memorial Day 2019.
Councilmember Mezzanotte reported that turtle season is over. There were 213 nests, 66% of which had to be relocated.
Closing citizens comments included Jerry McGee who spoke in favor of the beach lighting ordinance amendment, “ladies and gentlemen please move with haste and adopt these things that protect our wildlife.”
Mayor Weaver in closing, reported in response to Wendy Kulick, that yes, he intends to run for one more term as mayor.
With no further business, the meeting was adjourned. The next regularly scheduled meeting will be Tuesday, Oct. 2 at 2 p.m