By Gregg Bragg, The Island Connection Sr. Staff Writer
The sound of small talk peppered Seabrook Council Chambers while a slate of public hearings passed without comment on March 26. Seabrook Island Town Council correctly anticipated the amount of feedback to expect on the transfer of several parcels to Seabrook’s Greenspace Conservancy.
Ordinances 2019-01, 02, and 03 would rezone three parcels for conservation, if passed later in the meeting, adding to approximately 30 similar ordinances enacted in the past few years.
Mayor Ciancio shifted to the financial report for February after time for public comment expired without input. Seabrook generated revenues of $82,000 for the month of February, totaling over $218,000 (about 11% of the annual budget) for the year, said the Mayor. The Town technically took a hit on the expense side, as a bill of $91,000 came due for repairs along Seabrook Island Rd., dominating total expenses for the month of $148,000. The year-to-date total is about $202,000 (10.5% of budget).
Despite the high but expected costs for the month, Seabrook has spent $16,000 less than expected for the year and the total fund balance continues to spiral ever upward toward the $5 million mark.
Councilmember and Mayor Pro Tem John Gregg said, again, the Club’s Long Range Planning Committee did not meet last month, and didn’t know when they would.
The Public Safety Committee met on March 6. The group is still wrestling with the logistics of a volunteer sign-up push as a dry run for an unanticipated disaster (e.g. earthquake, winter storm). The hazard mitigation plan is in the works with renewed vigor, as any additional funding from the state for past emergencies hinges on its submission, said Gregg as he wrapped up his report to council in record time.
Councilmember Crane announced the Town’s new Hamm radios have all been programmed and are available for distribution to Council participants. He added that the radios successfully passed a test of range and signal strength conducted on March 20. The daytime test allowed for more participants and a more comprehensive test of the Town’s emergency communications, he said. Crane concluded his report by saying there would be a “soft launch” of SITC’s website by April 1, though there is still plenty of work needed to update content.
Councilmember Wells said repairs along Seabrook Island Rd. are all but complete, and the last drain (in front of Lulu’s) is all that remains of the goliath project. Wells also requested volunteers for this year’s Lowcountry Marine Mammal Network’s dolphin education program, and said an organizational meeting will be help on May 1 at the Beach Community Center (time to be announced). Kiawah also participates in the program and the meeting will include residents of both islands.
Wells continued to note the improvements to conditions for volunteers moving into the 2019 season. A box will be placed on the Seabrook side of Captain Sams inlet stocked with chairs, umbrellas, etc. making volunteering for the program easier this year than last. He also highlighted that last year’s 4 hour shifts will be replaced by 2 hour shifts.
Councilmember Finke then stole the show by introducing Resolution 2019-18. The measure commits SITC to develop and enact an ordinance banning plastics during the current session of council. “…The resolution is in essence a ‘sense of council’ saying that we recognize the threat of plastics pollution and intend to complete consideration this year of an ordinance that would ban single use plastic[s]… Seabrook Island and Kiawah Island stand out as two of South Carolina’s coastal communities that have not passed some version [of a ban]. Twelve of our neighboring communities, encompassing at least 1200 miles of SC coastline, have already done so. I don’t think [we] should… adopt a policy just because a neighboring municipality has done so, but… because it is the right thing to do for Seabrook Island and our very vulnerable and special ecosystem… Also [this] may give the Town standing if [Columbia enacts the pending] ‘Ban the Bans’ and there is a challenge to local authority,” read parts of a carefully crafted introduction delivered by Finke.
The Mayor acknowledged the motion and asked for a second.
There’s often a pause in the action at this point in proceedings. No one seems certain who should have the “honor” of seconding an action, but not this time. All three of the remaining councilmembers answered “SECOND” in the same moment, and the resolution passed unanimously. “I’m not in favor of [Columbia] usurping our mojo,” said the Mayor before turning to his own report.
1126 Ocean Forest Dr. was the sole item on the Mayor’s agenda. Mayor Ciancio gave a brief overview of the renovation efforts originally scheduled to conclude last fall, but said Osprey Construction and the new owner were requesting a third extension to the deadline. The Mayor seemed satisfied that the transformation of the property from Adams Family house to Seabrook gem was all but complete, and moved for approval. The request received unanimous support.
Town Administrator Joe Cronin opened a lengthy report with news Seabrook won a Municipal Achievement Award from the Municipal Association of South Carolina. It was the Town’s first foray into contention for a MASC award, and he credited SITC’s partnership with Lowcountry Marine Mammal Network for the win.
Cronin was also pleased to report saving funds on the purchase of two new vehicles by using local vendors. SC has an established “cheaper by the dozen” process for municipalities to make such purchases. However, Cronin saved $200 over the price available through the state on a Chevy Colorado, and $2,000 on a Chevy Tahoe by going it alone. He used to savings to purchase upgrades.
Miscellaneous announcements included;
- Seabrook’s “shredding days” are scheduled for April 5 and October 11 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
- Updates to the Town’s comprehensive plan will be completed in plenty of time to meet the state’s deadline
- Five new members of Beach Patrol were empowered as code enforcement officers
- The Town’s old Jeep was sold for $6,100 and the old Tahoe will be up for bid next month
- PIV Planning Group will be hired for $86,000 [$40,000 x 2 budgeted over 2 fiscal years] to spend the next 12 -18 months updating the Town’s development standards
- Seabrook will again be hosting Disaster Awareness Day on Friday June 14th, at Seabrook’s club house and features the signature FREE lunch.
There were three measures before Council for a second reading, and all three were good news for the Greenspace Conservancy. Ordinances 2019-01, 2019- 02, and 2019-03 were all approved for rezoning to conservation districts.
2019-01; 1146 Ocean Forrest Lane
2019-02; 2096 Seabrook Island Rd.
2019-03; 2326 Cat Tail Pond Rd.
The three properties were acquired by the Greenspace Conservancy and the titles will be transferred to the Seabrook Island Property Owners Association.
The question of Seabrook’s leash ordinances surfaced during citizen’s comments for the second consecutive month. The Mayor indicated the matter wasn’t ready for a public hearing, and said the issue had been referred to committee without indicating when to expect further action by Council.
Longtime Seabrook resident/owner Jeff Harrison had plenty to say about Beach Patrol and most of it was bad. He claims to have been harassed about leash laws while swimming with his dog, but the real concern centered around degrading the quality of life on Seabrook. “Beach patrol used to be one guy on a bike, then it was a girl in a golf cart. Now, it’s two [or more] guys and two Toyotas on the beach,” said Harrison.
“Our beach can’t be [considered] pristine with two Toyotas on it all the time while the guys are playing… on surfboards, and getting paid to do it, far from where they’re supposed to be.”
The Mayor guardedly defended Beach Patrol, but seemed inclined to investigate further.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned. The next regular meeting of the Seabrook Island Town Council will be held Tuesday, April 23 at 2 p.m.