By Dick Wildermann for The Island Connection
There are a number of projects planned or being developed outside the Seabrook Island gate in the general vicinity of Freshfields Village. One proposal is an expansion of Bohicket Marina. To accommodate the project, the developer has approached the Town of Seabrook Island about the possibility of having the town annex the property northeast of the marina and extending to Betsy Kerrison Parkway. The property in question is currently zoned agricultural by Charleston County. That zoning designation would not allow the type of project proposed for the property, which apparently includes a mix of commercial and residential uses in addition to expansion of the marina. The uses that would be permitted if the town annexes the property would depend on the town’s zoning district designation for the entire property or for individual parcels within the property. Expansion of the marina could affect the Seabrook Island community in a number of ways, some beneficial and some detrimental. A more vibrant marina could provide economic benefits. But the project could have adverse effects such as traffic congestion, increased flooding, impacts on the natural environment, disruption to our daily routines, and conflicts with services and activities in the Freshfield’s area. The extent of any effects, positive and negative, will depend on the details of the project, how well it is designed and constructed, how effectively appropriate authorities oversee the project from beginning to end, and how well it is managed and maintained once completed. The proposed marina expansion will affect all Seabrook Island residents and property owners to some extent. Each of us has a right to be informed and to express our opinions about this project as it progresses through planning and development. The town planning commission may address the possible annexation of the property at its Sept. 14 meeting. That would be an excellent opportunity for residents and others in the surrounding community to learn about the developer’s plans and the town’s intentions, and to express their opinions at this early stage. Transparency and stakeholder input are essential.
Some time before the 14th, the town website will indicate if the annexation request is on the agenda for the planning commission meeting. We have all witnessed the sharp increase in home construction on Seabrook Island in the last couple of years. At the same time, the pace of development outside the gate, in the general vicinity of Freshfields, has picked up. The Seafields senior living facility is under construction, work may begin soon on the MUSC medical facility, a mixed commercial and residential use project, that will include a new Harris Teeter, is planned adjacent to Freshfields along the Kiawah Island Parkway, and now a three-story self storage facility is planned for the property adjacent to the Andell Inn. More projects will follow, including along Betsy Kerrison Parkway. Emergency medical service, a senior living facility, and a larger grocery store will certainly be beneficial. The adverse effects on Seabrook and the surrounding community if each of these projects is examined in isolation would most likely be modest and manageable. But when evaluated together, the cumulative impacts could overwhelm our infrastructure, significantly harm the environment, and detrimentally affect our quality of life.
Studies should be done that evaluate these projects individually but, more importantly, also take a holistic perspective that analyzes and spells out the potential effects from the entirety of these developments now and for years to come. These analyses must make some assumptions about the scope of those projects that are only in the early planning stage, but future projections are necessary to allow Seabrook and all affected communities to anticipate and plan accordingly. The consequences of more frequent and intense flooding that we will continue to experience must also be taken into account. These studies should provide Seabrook, Kiawah, and Johns Island authorities with detailed recommendations that, if implemented, would help ensure all development is in the best interests of our communities and minimizes adverse effects.
Dick Wildermann is a resident of Seabrook Island.