By Gregg Bragg, The Island Connection Staff Writer
There was a public hearing scheduled five minutes before August’s meeting of Seabrook Town Council. Ordinance 2015-08 was announced but otherwise sat quietly on its own agenda. The ban on baiting sharks into swimming areas [and out to 600 feet] seemed such a universally good idea, the token amount of time allotted for public comment was perfectly adequate, more like ample.
Roll call confirmed appearances and this month, included Mayor Ahearn and Council Member John Turner. Both had returned from recent trips but without the hoped for update on elephant rides, the subject of mock speculation the last couple months. Financials for the month of July were strong, said the mayor.
Revenues displayed an extra $7,000 while expenses consumed $20,5000 less than expected, putting Seabrook $27,5000 under budget for the month, and $170,000 ahead of plot for the year. The route to making the annual contribution of no less the $200,000 to the emergency fund looks clear. Credit for the abundance goes to an increase in business license fees enacted after the budget was finalized, said the mayor, defending council’s actions.
Carl Simmons, Director of Charleston County Building Services was there with a presentation on “House Located at 1126 Ocean Forrest lane,” read the agenda. He provided a lengthy history of the issue, was prepared to be flexible and had options as well; 1. board up the house or 2. tear it down or 3. whatever you want. Simmons also indicated council’s decision could be acted on in a matter of weeks, not months, despite the lack of clear title which has delayed action on the abandoned house for eight years. Noting the prospect of expediency was probably for the best, since this issue was the reason for exemplary attendance from Seabrook residents.
Residents on either side of “House Located at 1126 Ocean Forrest lane,” were present. They said they were angry about the situation but their pique didn’t show otherwise. Both neighbors described a structure shy of Adams Family condition, wide open to the elements. “It isn’t getting better with age,” said Rick McDaniel, before describing the wealth of black mold present and the open shaft where an elevator had been planned. “If a kid falls down there, you can forget your budget,” warned McDaniel of the well documented problem. Norman Smith took a more direct approach saying simply, “We’re trying to sell our house and I’m tired of talking about it.”
The debate went on for some time with everyone in radical agreement despite plenty of details to be worked out. Carl Simmons was peppered with questions he seemed prepared for, advising council on the legal nuances involved. Council’s unanimous decision was a motion to initiate “Final Notice of Demolition” proceedings just in time for a discussion of curb appeal.
Councilmember Romano reported meeting with the property owners association (SIPOA) on August 11. The Property and Landscape Improvement Committee discussed ways to embellish “curb appeal.” Such discussions are pertinent in retaining coveted Audubon Society awards. The survey they initiated will be finalized this winter and a response prepared by early next summer.
Councilmember Gregg advised attendees the club’s long range planning committee had met in earlier in August to complete their survey. Results will be discussed in September. Gregg reported next, on the topic of the Public Safety Committee, John Reynolds, his CERT team and others had successfully conducted tests of their emergency radios. He also said an earthquake guide would be mentioned in the next SIPOA newsletter.
Councilmember Turner said representatives of the US Fish and Wildlife Service were happy enough with their inspection of the recent beach re-nourishment project but still had some concerns. Turner warned of the need for precision in logs kept by deputies and beach patrol concerning the environmentally sensitive area. “We need to follow up on our new beach ordinance and signs,” he said. When asked what was at stake, Turner reminded council plans for similar projects in the future could be impacted by non-compliance and besides, “We are people of our word and need to document the right things.”
Councilmember Ron Ciancio said Seabrook continued to execute the “Make it Uniquely Yours” campaign. The beach package winner had been and gone. They were greeted initially by Don Romano who took pains to be a good host and gave them a guided tour of the island.
Ciancio continued, saying the winners of the tennis package were set to arrive over the Labor Day weekend and though unscheduled, the golf package winners had been identified and informed they had until the end of the year to redeem their prize.
“There will be no sweepstakes next year,” said Ciancio. The focus of future efforts will be cost reduction and leveraging Charleston’s place as a favorite tourist destination. The Accommodations Tax, which provides the funding for such endeavors, comes with strict mandates on how it is applied.
Seabrook’s committee was scheduled to meet in early September and will make recommendations which will be brought before council. One of the items mentioned for future support was the Billfish Tournament hosted by Bohicket Marina. However, councilmember Turner expressed objections unless the contest was catch and release. Ciancio was also able to confirm being the primary sponsor of this year’s Alan Fleming Tennis Tournament planned for the first week in October.
Ciancio gave voice to the emerging issue of street signs between the Seabrook gatehouse and the traffic circle. SIPOA is currently re-engineering all the street signs inside the gate. He wondered aloud those outside the gate should be any different when they already had the look of “a 1950’s hotel vacancy sign.” Heather Paton, Director of SIPOA was present and able to identify Sign Source as their preferred vendor. This and many topics are planned for discussion during a meeting of the Ways and Means Committee scheduled for mid-September.
The Mayor reported priority one is the resolution of trash and recycling contracts. Charleston County wants to work with the town instead of with SIPOA and is requesting $52/ton to maintain the current arrangement. He also said Kiawah had complained about the loss of a hundred plus wax myrtles resulting from the beach re-nourishment project (the cut), and was asking him for help with cleaning it up and even replanting. SIPOA volunteers got it done, he concluded.
Randy Pierce, town administrator, reported plans to attend a seminar hosted by the Coastal Communities Association in Myrtle Beach from September 28-30. He also asked about continuing extended hours for beach patrol past Labor Day.
The longer hours are expensive and not budgeted, said Pierce, but were indulged because of work on the cut.
Councilmember Turner argued for keeping the extended hours as both necessary to giving cooperation with municipal ordinances and signs a chance to gel, and as a nod to US Fish and Wildlife observers. Council responded by agreeing to keep the extended hours through September, and until a more thorough review could be made during budget reviews.
Miscellaneous items included Jeff Bostock’s claim the utility had cash on hand for a change of pace, resulting from the recent bond passage. The meeting concluded after St. Johns Fire District representatives said they would love to help with the demolition of “House Located at 1126 Ocean Forrest lane.”