By Gregg Bragg, The Island Connection Staff Writer
The agenda for Seabrook’s Jan. 26, 2016 Town Council meeting was very busy looking. The font size used seemed smaller somehow, and margins thinner than for past meetings. The list of items for consideration or discussion fit on a single page, sure, but only just. Plenty of residents were in attendance and braced for impact, anticipating a long meeting.
However, Mayor Ron Ciancio, recently promoted from mayor pro tem by an overwhelming election win, runs a tight ship. The entire meeting wrapped up in 50 minutes or so. He scurried into his financial report for both last December and the previous year.
December’s accounting witnessed similar fluctuations to past reports. Expenses came in above expectations (the result of some legal fees) but were more than offset by revenues, which did the same. There was a total gain of $95,000 for the month. 2015 revenues, in turn, showed a net above plans of $308,000 the result of increases in permitting/licensing and franchise fees.
Ciancio broke with the past tradition of transferring the excess to the Emergency Fund during the first January meeting in favor of waiting for the final results of Seabrook’s audited financials. The mayor said official transfer of the funds should take place in the next few months.
Seabrook resident Don Day was equally quick to contribute during the first round of citizens comments. Day has been living on Seabrook for 16 years and has been a licensed residential contractor for the last ten. He focuses on jobs larger firms won’t bid on. “My average invoice is around $100. If you want a new roof, they’ll be lining up around the block but fixing a leaky skylight is another matter,” Day would later tell The Island Connection. Day’s concern was with permitting. He asked if small jobs, especially those inside a home were subject to permitting, if they should be and why they were recently being pursued with what he felt was renewed vigor.
Seabrook staff didn’t hesitate to say permitting rules had been on the books for quite some time. Town Clerk Faye Albritton noted there was no fee associated with small projects. Town Administrator Randy Pierce chimed in saying permitting had been enforced all along and although Seabrook may not have doggedly pursued every instance of home repairs, permits were a requirement. Day’s quiet dissent continued by pointing out even free permits cost him time, which could find its way [unnecessarily] into the bills of residents. He then wondered, aloud, if this was the proper venue for the discussion. Mayor Ciancio agreed, at least about the choice of forum, and invited Day to schedule a meeting with him and the Town Administrator to follow up on the topic. The town has since advised The Island Connection of its intent to formally review this issue in the coming months.
Mayor pro tem John Gregg proceeded by saying the club’s long range planning committee had not met in January and were waiting for completion of a Seabrook Island Property Owners Association (SIPOA) survey. The public safety committee had met earlier in the month, however, and was continuing work to update the comprehensive emergency plan. Consultant Scott Cave had issued a report based on hurricane exercises held last earlier. These will have a bearing on the plan and a review of his findings is scheduled for early February. Gregg concluded [the town] was still waiting for information on debris removal from Charleston County, which may result in a new contract.
Councilmember John Turner opened his remarks with breaking news. “I acted [on a tip] that the Burden Creek Bridge project has been delayed. I checked with SCDOT and Friday afternoon talked with Robert Clark, SCDOT District 6 Engineering Administrator and Brent Rewis, SCDOT Low Country Program Manager. The Burden Creek Bridge and the Hoopstick Bridge on Bohicket near Plowground [rd.] were put up for bid. Both bids were rejected as too high. Hoopstick Bridge will be put up for re-bid soon. This project will not require closing Bohicket. Burden Creek will not be put up for re-bid until 2017 at the earliest, so it is delayed at least one year. However, the project timing parameters will probably not change; construction will be timed to start at the end of the school year and be completed before the next school year begins. River Road will be closed for that time.” Turner also had some exciting news after contact with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
BOEM’s website describes the news like this; “The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act requires BOEM to award renewable energy leases competitively, unless BOEM determines there is no competitive interest.
So, on Nov. 23, 2015, BOEM published a Call for Information and Nominations (Call) in the Federal Register (under Docket ID: BOEM-2015-0134) for a 60-day public comment period to gauge the offshore wind industry’s interest in acquiring commercial wind leases in four areas offshore South Carolina and to request comments regarding site conditions, resources and other uses within the Call areas.” Turner’s summary was more succinct.
The project (a wind farm off the SC coast) would be invisible to residents (located 20 miles to the southeast), was determined to be feasible, clear of shipping lanes, military operations and Right Whale migration routes according to Turner. He said “It looks good and we would support it if we had to commit right now. The SIPOA how much education would be required and is considering a forum to present both sides of the issue to residents of Seabrook and possibly Kiawah residents as well.”
Councilmember John Wells was prepared with a maintenance/repair proposal of drainage pipes from the Seabrook gatehouse to the traffic circle.
Recent flooding in the area prompted a Request for Proposal. The resulting study determined the need for approximately 10, 10 hour days and a cost of $48,000 (plus a 10 percent contingency) to video inspect and clean the drains. His request for monies from the general fund included acceptance of Eadies Constructions response to the RFP and received unanimous approval.
Wells’ request for funds (a combination of Accommodations tax and General funds) to continue promoting Seabrook through Obviouslee Marketing and events like Kick it at Bohicket and the Fourth of July celebration were also approved.
Councilmember Skip Crane’s report on community relations included an effusive account of a meeting with representatives of Camp St. Christopher. “They welcome residents to use their nature trails and really have a lot to offer,” said Crane before his report on January’s SIPOA board meeting.
1. SIPOA has arranged for monthly pickup of both “brown” and “white” trash
2. Provided an easement for Comcast to effect repairs which included Comcast’s obligations to
a. Fix what they break.
b. 24 hour phone support
A dedicated representative
3. Voted against development of a dog park
The mayor’s report also consisted of similarly formatted announcements.
1. The “super street,” once proffered as a low cost, low tech solution to congestion at the intersection of Main/17 has been taken off the table by County Council
2. Work planned for the controversial intersection will be limited to research on the more comprehensive “flyover” solution, which would address both flooding and congestion
3. The state Department of Transportation (SC-DOT) is planning a safety survey of Main Rd. the scope/purpose of which has yet to be determined
4. A hearing has been scheduled for March 14 about the house located at 1126 Forrest Lane and the mayor hopes for two pieces of information:
a. A time frame for foreclosure proceedings
b. A time frame for the town to effect repairs/condemnation
There were four ordinances on the agenda for first reading which were dealt with as a group. The measures were a joint effort by the town, SIPOA and the Seabrook Island Greenspace Conservancy to rezone four parcels from “Single Family Residential District” to “Agricultural-Conservation District.” The measures were passed unanimously and approved by a room full of contented smiles.
Ordinance 2015-10 was scheduled for a second hearing. The measure effectively removes the town from final site planning and streamlines a process already vetted by the Planning Commission and SIPOA. The measure passed unanimously.
Ordinance 2015-11 was also scheduled for a second hearing. The amendment to the town’s Development Standards Ordinance makes changes to section 7.90.20 altering the maximum height of a single family residence. The act passed unanimously.
The lengthy agenda had been addressed in a short space of time. There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.