Friday, May 3, 2013

Rulings stall controversial Johns, Kiawah Island developments

Kiawah River Plantation, Capt. Sam's Spit projects face uncertain future

Posted by Sam Spence on Fri, May 3, 2013 at 3:31 PM

A pair of decisions Thursday dealt blows to plans for controversial development on Johns Island and Kiawah Island, setting up an uncertain future for proposed Beach Co. and Kiawah Development Partners coastal subdivisions.

Kiawah River Plantation

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The long-debated public assistance plan for the Kiawah River Plantation development proposed by the Beach Company last year was likely killed off by a 9-0 vote by Charleston County Council Finance Committee at its meeting last night. The proposed tax-increment finance district (TIF) was set to divert $82 million in taxpayer money to offset costs needed before large-scale development on the 2,000-acre property at the southern tip of Johns Island could be developed. Critics of the plan dubbed it the "Beach Company Bailout," upset that a large portion of the money, $62 million, would be pulled from property tax revenue normally marked for public school funding. Thursday's meeting included a 30-minute presentation from Colin Cuskley of the Johns Island Conservancy, who spoke in opposition to the plan. Cuskley echoed sentiments shared by Coastal Conservation League officials, saying that the letter of the law dictates conditions that must be met for a TIF to be enacted, and that the Johns Island development did not meet those conditions. Coastal Conservation League Land Use Project Manager Jake Libaire said he thought Cuskley's appeal to council was "very impactful, especially his points about the questionable legality of this particular TIF. Kind of put the last nail in the coffin."

County Attorney Joe Dawson advised that the full council weigh in on the plan at its meeting this week, but Council Chair Teddie Pryor says he expects similar results, though a reworked plan for the TIF could be brought back up in the future.

Capt. Sam's Spit

Capt. Sams Spit lies at the southern end of Kiawah Island
  • Google Maps
  • Capt. Sam's Spit lies at the southern end of Kiawah Island
Late Thursday, the State Supreme Court also announced that it would, once again, rehear the case regarding a proposed 50-home development on a 150-acre tract at the southern end of Kiawah Island which would require construction of a major access road and seawall along the in-shore coastline of Capt. Sam's Spit by Kiawah Development Partners.

The Court has already heard and reheard the case, and the decision to rehear it once again marks what many view as an unexpected twist in years-long efforts by environmental groups and activists to save the unique tidal ecosystem. In fact, since the Court's ruling in February, a portion of the coastline where the proposed access road would be built has eroded away, claiming a portion of the large parking area at the popular Beachwalker County Park. Developers maintain that the plans can be carried out without significant harm to the surrounding environment.

The South Carolina Supreme Court will rehear the case on June 5 in Columbia.

To accommodate an access road, the back beach at Captain Sams Spit (left) will require a metal and concrete retaining wall, like the one pictured at right on nearby Seabrook Island, only it will be much larger
  • Stratton Lawrence file photo
  • To accommodate an access road, the back beach at Captain Sam's Spit (left) will require a metal and concrete retaining wall, like the one pictured at right on nearby Seabrook Island, only it will be much larger

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