Feb 13 2012

Notes From Kiawah Town Council Meeting February 7, 2012

By Kevin O’Haire


Beach Walkovers and the extension of I-526 were the topics of discussion at the Kiawah Town Council meeting.

Beach Walkovers Prove To Be Hot Topic

At its monthly meeting held Tuesday, the Kiawah Town Council took up the testy issue of an amendment to the municipal code concerning the regulation of beach or “dune” walkovers. The item appeared on the meeting agenda as a First Reading of the proposed amendment to Ordinance 2012-02.

Two public readings of an Ordinance are required prior to the Council taking any action on the measure. The proposed amendment provides that a homeowner shall have a period of eighteen months from enactment in order to bring the walkover into compliance with the code. The code stipulates the length, height and method of construction for the wooden structures which run from many private residences and other locations over the dune areas and out to the shoreline. There are over 100 such structures on Kiawah Island.

Town resident John Wright, citing Kiawah’s positive beach sand flow or “accretion”, said the amendment is unnecessary. He explained that Kiawah Island, owing to favorable tides and wind patterns, is the beneficiary of sand travelling on the breeze and water from Folly Beach and other coastal islands. “It is a solution in search of a problem,” he said. He said that to extend the walkover he owns would cost in the neighborhood of $50,000. Some of his neighbors are in a similar predicament, he said. Given rising taxes, fees, maintenance costs and an uncertain economy, he stated that the amendment puts an unwarranted and punitive financial burden on homeowners, many of whom have already listed their homes for sale

Councilman Greg VanDerwerker explained that the ordinance is not ‘arbitrary”. Rather, he said, it is the Council’s statutory obligation to comply with the South Carolina Beachfront Management Act which requires seaside municipalities to develop and enact a plan designed to protect and preserve its outlying beach and dune areas. The Town has a “rational basis” for the enforcement of the ordinance, he said. Further, he pointed out that there is no requirement that a homeowner construct a walkover.

Mayor Steve Orban, looking fresh after a recent surgery, pointed out that the dune line constantly changes and that the body must agree on a schedule for periodic inspections. A period of five years for inspections was discussed. He was concerned that the Council adopt a “mechanism” to insure a fair and open enforcement process.

Councilwoman Fran Wermuth offered that Kiawah’s situation was “unique”, and therefore in need of more study.

Town Attorney Dennis Rhoad was instructed to formulate additional language to the amendment concerning hardship situations that may qualify the homeowner for an extension. The Second Reading of the amendment is scheduled for the Council’s March meeting.


Council Debates I-526 Resolution

The Council confronted another controversial issue on Tuesday: Resolution 2012-1. This resolution endorses the much-debated and long-stalled extension of the I-526 roadway. The proposed resolution states that the project promotes “a safer and better community for those travelling to and from John’s Island, Wadmalaw, Kiawah and Seabrook Islands.”

Mayor Orban pointed to a survey of Kiawah Island residents that was 4-1 in favor of the project. It would also save commuting time and serve as a secondary evacuation route in the event of an emergency, he said.

Councilman VanDerwerker disagreed. He argued that given the cost of the project-estimated at between $400 and $650 million-a time savings of a few minutes for the longest commutes from the island wasn’t worth it. He also questioned whether the proposed route could in fact be used as an alternative evacuation route. Councilwoman Wermuth agreed and pointed out the resolution was non-binding in any event.

The measure passed by a vote of 3-2, with Ms. Wermuth and Mr. VanDerwerker in the minority.


Kiawah Development Agreement Extended to 2018

In other action Tuesday, The Town Council acknowledged that the Development Agreement it executed with Kiawah Resort Associates, LP, on October 12, 2005 will likely be extended by operation of its terms until January 1, 2018. The extension was triggered by a January 12 letter from the developers to the Town. The specific provision states that should the developer control 250 or more “highland” acreage within the real property as of January 1, 2008, the original agreement will be continued to 2018.

Councilwoman Wermuth expressed concern that the acreage be certified and she questioned the timing of the developer’s letter. The Town Attorney was instructed to confirm the certification of the acreage in question and report back to the Council in March.


Council Sets Date for Budget Workshop and Retreat

The full Council will meet on March 28 to conduct its annual budget planning session and retreat. No location was mentioned. In past years, the Council has meet at the Marriot Hotel in Charleston. The Council also approved the FY2013 Budget Calendar. A final Budget must be in place by June 5, and will be effective beginning July 1.

For more information from the Kiawah Town Council, visit

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