Public hearing: for the updated Comprehensive Plan
Resident and Kiawah council candidate Greg Vanderwerker was the only one to comment during the public hearing on the updated Comprehensive Plan for the Town of Kiawah Island, and while he thanked the Planning Commission for all of their hard work, he noted that the County, when doing revisions on their own Comprehensive Plan, “went to great effort to include public information with a series of three meetings.” Vanderwerker remarked that he was impressed with this method, and was dismayed that the Kiawah Council did not ask for public opinion until the Comprehensive Plan was complete and up for first hearing. “Hopefully in five years this will be different,” said Vanderwerker, also pointing out that the plan seems “made to accommodate the Development Agreement.” “Hopefully we will begin at a ground level and work forward rather than backward [for the next five year review],” said Vanderwerker. Second hearing will be held at 1:30 p.m. on December 7 before the next Council meeting.
National Arbor Day Proclamation
As part of The Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree City USA program, the Town of Kiawah Island proclaimed December 3, 2010, to be Kiawah Island Arbor Day, and encouraged the planting of trees in honor of this auspicious day for the benefit and betterment of the island community. A plaque recognizing the day was awarded to Dave Achey, head of Kiawah Island Golf Resort Landscaping.
Native American Awareness Month
Mayor Wert read through a brief history of National American Indian Heritage Month, and at the request of the local branch of the Daughters of the American Revolution, officially recognized the month of November as National American Indian Heritage Month. Two members of the DAR, who were in attendance for the recognition, were awarded a plaque for the occasion, and pointed out that the DAR is in the process of raising money to send a Native American student to a Native American college in Oregon, as well as working to improve awareness year-round.
Swearing in new Town Clerk, Lykeesha Shannon
“Lykeesha Shannon comes to us with two masters from Websters University, complete Town Clerk training and having been the Town Clerk for the City of Marion for four years,” Mayor Wert announced, pointing out that she was chosen out of 70 applicants to fill the position of Kiawah Island Town Clerk. Following the official swearing in of office, the Mayor shook her hand and welcomed her aboard.
Outdoor Grilling ordinance
“Our public safety article prohibits outdoor cooking on decks in multi-residential buildings, but the new Maritime condos have electric grills built in,” said Councilman Steve Orban, “So we dug into the issue, and found that they meet current international building and fire codes, so this ordinance (Ordinance 2010-6) allows for the use of built-in outdoor electrical grills in any multi-story family structure completed after January 1, 2007.” The ordinance goes on to list the conditions which built-in outdoor electric grills must meet in order to be up to International Building and Fire Codes. The ordinance also bans charcoal, propane, portable electric and natural gas outdoor cooking devices in multi-family buildings. The ordinance was approved unanimously.
First reading of the updated Comprehensive Plan ordinance: 2010-10
Mayor Wert read the ordinance aloud, and noted the public hearing held just before the meeting. “I would like to thank the Planning Commission, chaired by Frank Peterson,” said Wert, “and to all of you, I give a hearty thank you. It’s a tough job and it was well done.” Lipuma ran through a few typos and edits in the document, but there were no significant changes. Council approved the first reading unanimously.
Town staff receives 1.5% Cost of Living adjustment
As per the suggestion of the Ways and Means committee, Council discussed a 2011 cost of living increase for Town employees of 1.5%. “Annually, the town takes into consideration a cost of living adjustment for their employees,” said Town Administrator Tumiko Rucker. “The request is based on the published US Department of Labor Consumer Price Index (CPI) which suggests the 1.5% increase.” The increase would go into effect in January 2011. Councilman Charles Lipuma pointed out that, in 2009, the Town approved a 2% increase, and no increase for 2010. “Now, for 2011, we’re approving a 1.5% increase. By comparison, the Social Security commission is not increasing social security, and has not for the past two years,” said Lipuma. “Every year, the staff is reviewed for merit increases and it is on this basis that I will vote against the adjustment.” Council approved the adjustment 4 to 1, with Lipuma voting against.
Health Insurance subsidy
Secondly, Administrator Rucker recommended that the Town once again approve a $150 subsidy for Town employee health insurance. The subsidy would cover the standard health insurance plans, but not the full cost for either the Blue Choice or Signal plan. Council approved the subsidy unanimously and it will go into effect on January 1, 2011.
All Terrain vehicle purchase
According to the incident report, on October 5, Aaron Given, Assistant Wildlife Biologist for the Town of Kiawah Island, was crossing a small tidal creek in the town’s Argo Frontier 6×6 amphibious vehicle as part of his regular, federally-mandated surveying of piping plover on the island, when water began to well up in the bottom of the vehicle. Unable to get the ATV started, Given floated down the creek until Town Wildlife Biologist Jim Jordan was able to rescue him, and the survey equipment, by kayak. On inspecting the vehicle, a faulty seal was found around the left middle tire axle and the ATV was deemed unsalvageable. Rucker noted that the loss was reported to insurance, who assigned an appraiser and an adjuster, who also declared the vehicle a total loss. The cost of replacing the vehicle would be no more than $13,000, and with the received insurance return of $5425, the cost to the town to replace the vehicle would be no more than $8, 575.
“The Wildlife Department will continue to use this [ATV]for the one-and-a-half years remaining in the required surveys of piping plover,” Rucker stated. Mayor Wert recommended approval of a cost not to exceed $8,750 to replace the vehicle, and Councilman Lipuma noted that, while the old ATV had a top speed around 12 mph and had to be towed to the flushing channel for surveys, the new vehicle can go up to 25 mph, so it can get to the survey location unassisted. “We should consider applying for TARP funds for this, since its federally mandated,” the Mayor joked. Council approved the expenditure unanimously.
$100,000 for habitat preservation
Town Administrator Tumiko Rucker reported that the Town received a letter from the Kiawah Island Natural Habitat Conservancy on October 12, requesting $100,000 from the Town to be restricted for use toward habitat preservation. As the Town did amend its budget earlier this year for an amount not to exceed $100,000 solely for habitat preservation, the Ways and Means committee recommended approval of the amount. Mayor Wert also noted that amount would be used to buy down mortgages on existing properties in conservation. Council approved the expenditure unanimously.
Arts Council report
Councilman Lipuma was happy to announce that the Gaubert Vivant! Performance at Church of Our Saviour on October 22 was very well attended, and the last two performances of the Arts season would be the piano bar series performances on November 3 and 10 at the Sandcastle. Finally, while it was not an Arts Council performance, the Charleston Symphony Orchestra League brass ensemble performance on October 30 following the Kiawah Tour of Homes went well and was well attended.
Public Safety report
Councilman Steve Orban reported that in June, 252,000 cars traveled through Kiawah’s front gate, while only 145,000 were reported in September. “This shows that once the summer’s over, the traffic really drops,” said Orban. The Public Safety committee also discussed a suggestion from a resident to require bells or horns on bikes traveling the new bike path, but in the end they decided it would be too hard to mandate and enforce. In terms of emergency calls, the St. Johns Fire Department reported that, while they had a total of 1450 calls last year from the island, as of October of this year they had already received 1450 calls, mostly for EMS. Lastly, a traffic engineer hired to review the Freshfields traffic circle and entrance to Kiawah recommended some new stop signs for Beachwalker Drive, which Kiawah staff will look into.
On a side note, Orban stated that, while most residents have already read about it in the paper, the two suspects in the Freshfields mugging incidents were arrested the week before, and encouraged people to continue shopping at Freshfields.
“The combined effort [of all of the island entities] to increase recycling on our island continues to astound me,” said Councilman Harry McHugh with a smile. The Town has two full-time employees working on environmental activities, and the efforts of the community and local organizations, McHugh said, are wonderful. The Town’s environmental website, started by Jim Jordan, has seen an increase in visits from 3800 to 5800, and the Kiawah Island Golf Resort (KIGR) is making every effort to recycle and reuse the Old Inn as they take it down. Liz King, Director of Outdoor Programs for KIGR, has been assigned to monitoring the potential rat population in the Old Inn, and while there seems to be little evidence of a heavy rat population, they are making every effort to ensure that what rats are there are taken care of so as not to increase the island’s rat population.
“Lastly, it’s been a hell of a year for sea turtles,” said McHugh, pointing out that nesting was up 30% from last year, with 218 nests. “We do turtles, environment, rats, recycling, what else do you want?” he smiled.
Councilman Al Burnaford stated that they will “continue to work with anyone who will work with us to make roads safer.” County Council, during their at last meeting, recommended a shortened version of 526 which ends at Johns Island and widens River Road to Betsy Kerrision, bypassing James Island entirely. Since the widening of River Road has been studied before, the timing on the feasibility of the project should be rather short coming back to Council, said Burnaford. “In my opinion, there is no government program that doesn’t take a long time, though they hope to have it ready in six months or so,” he smiled.
Town Administrator’s report
Town Administrator Tumiko Rucker reported that the Town staff is wrapping up their financial reports for the last fiscal year and will be sending them to the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) for recognition. She also noted that the Town sent representatives to the recent TRAC (Tax Realignment Committee) to oppose a proposal for the state to collect and assign the use of Accomodations Tax (ATAX) funds, as opposed to continuing to distribute it to municipalities. The final recommendation was that TRAC not change how ATAX is allocated, though did say they should have oversight of hospitality tax and other taxes for distribution, and Rucker stated that they will continue to fight the new proposals.
As for the town’s Greenbelt funds, the town’s proposal to use the funding for minor improvements to existing green spaces was unanimously improved, and it was noted that this project is the first of it’s kind. “We received a letter of support from KICA and got great feedback from all KICA committee members,” said Rucker.
Lastly, the Administrator reported that $4500 was spend on improving, replacing and repairing the garbage and recycling containers on the beach.
Mayor Wert was pleased to report that they are way ahead of the 60 day requirement in the Development Agreement to take care of the Old Inn. Deconstruction has already begun, and everything that can be repurposed and recycled from the building is being handled by Liz King and Habitat for Humanity (See the full story on page ???????). While there have been some concerns about the deconstruction of the Old Inn causing an increase in rat population on the island, the Mayor assured everyone that the rat population is being supervised and steps are being taken to prevent that from happening. As for the recent brass ensemble performance on October 30, Wert noted that the music was wonderful, despite being performed in the pall of former CSO Conductor David Stahl’s passing only a couple weeks earlier. “Their children lost their mother about a month ago, also to cancer, so keep them in your prayers, please,” said the Mayor.
Lastly, the subject has been brought up about electric cars on the island, and while their maximum speed is 35 mph, they don’t seem to drive more than 15 or 20 mph. As long as they’re licensed, however, they are allowed to be on the roads, said Wert, so he urged cars to give them a wide berth and “be cautious when you see them.”
Liz King, Director of Outdoor Programs for KIGR, reported on the deconstruction and recycling efforts in regards to the Old Inn (see the full story on page ?????).
Resident Marilyn Olson commended the Town officials and the Resort for the time and effort taken to bring the Development Agreement to fruition. “This is an exciting time for Kiawah,” said Olson. “Kiawah has withstood the test of time so far, and it will be exciting to watch it unfold.” She also complimented Town Staff for bring the recycling containers on the beach up to code. “The result is a tremendous difference to the aesthetics and use of the containers on the beach,” she smiled.
Lastly, resident Diane Lehder asked for clarification in regards to a recent letter sent from Dr. Paul Roberts to the South Carolina Department of Transportation, which stated that the Town of Kiawah Island favors the completion of I-526 as soon as possible. “I have no problem with the position, but I was under the impression that the Town of Kiawah took no position. When was this discussed during a public meeting?” she asked. Later, Councilman Burnaford stated that this was a mistake and while he had personally reviewed the letter from Dr. Roberts before it was sent to the DOT, he overlooked this statement. David Kinard, the lead on the 526 project, was contact and the statement was retracted.
The Kiawah Island Council meets on the first Tuesday of every month. The next Kiawah Council meeting will be held on December 7, 2010, at 2 p.m. at Kiawah Town Hall, located at 21 Beachwalker Drive. For more information, visit www.kiawahisland.org or call 768-9166.