Having grown up on the coast, it has never ceased to amaze me when the childhood pasttime of building sand castles on the beach morphs into building luxury homes on barrier islands where said structures risk the same fate as those earlier forays into sandlapper engineering.
Now, if people want to waste their money here on the Atlantic coast, then they have a perfect right to do so. What I find particularly galling, however, is when the seaside property owners, developers, and building contractors come running to the taxpayers to subsidize these discretionary income choices.
And now, news has come to light that the "Republican workhorse" himself, U.S. Rep. Henry Brown (R-SC), has apparently stepped up to the plate for his constituency — coastal real estate developers and their ilk.
After reportedly meeting with Kiawah Development Partners earlier this year, Brown introduced a bill that would remove 84 acres on Kiawah Island from the Coastal Barrier Resources System protection zones.
The land is located south of Charleston County's Beachwalker Park at Capt. Sam's Inlet and is subject to federal strictures that do not prohibit development on private land in the zones, but do ban federal spending on road construction and beach renourishment. It also bars property owners within a zone from purchasing federal flood insurance. Brown's bill would change that.
The CBRS was created in 1982 to protect fragile coastal areas from the real estate development of the 1970s. It covers three-million-plus acres on the Atlantic and Gulf coastlines.
Long says that his company plans to build up to 50 homes on 20 acres of the 120-acre parcel, telling the P&C, "While some might prefer to have this land remain undeveloped, that's not an option. These lands will be developed, albeit in a careful way that is emblematic of Kiawah."
Of which I have no doubt, but that's not the issue here.
If KDP wants to make an investment in an ill-suited barrier island location for profit, then by all means, go for it. But if any company wants taxpayers to subsidize its sales pitch with federal flood insurance, then I say, stop right there.
Now Henry Brown, whom I'd be willing to bet cash money had forgotten he filed the exemption request only two months ago, has spent the last few weeks trying to wriggle off the hook.
Responding to a boatload of bad press, Brown defended his bill. According to the P&C, Brown "'had no idea there was a developer' connected with the legislation."
Brown added, "When we read the article, we thought it sounded like we were involved because of a developer."
And then he said, "I don't have any personal agenda in this."
Brown said he thought the Town of Kiawah wanted him to sponsor the bill, as if this somehow erases any whiff of corruption. He also said he did it to bring the federal law in line with the 1999 adjustment the state General Assembly made to the coastal setback lines.
When asked about the meeting with KDP by the P&C, Brown responded, "Who's Leonard Long?"
According to the P&C, Long said "his company approached Brown about the legislation earlier this year."
No one should be surprised by this. Brown has always been there for the interests of the business community over the concerns of ordinary South Carolinians throughout his career.
If the voters are serious about candidates who represent all the voters, then the voters need to start electing candidates who are serious about campaign finance reform.
It's that simple.