Tomorrow, while enjoying family activities, walk down to the beach and watch the 5th Annual Coastal Flyover Saluting our Military. Wear your red, white, and blue while waving America’s flag, if not show more American pride however you see fit. There will be 3 sets of vintage planes flying from Cherry Grove with an estimated time along the Isle of Palms starting around 1:35 PM. Get there a few minutes early just in case. Enjoy, be safe, and Happy Birthday America!
While most think that Memorial Day as just the beginning of summer with an extra day off from work, but it is the day of remembrance for those that gave the ultimate sacrifice, their lives serving our country, the United States of America. The holiday is the last Monday of May and was formally known as Decoration Day and originated after the American Civil War to commemorate both the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in that war. By the 20th century, Memorial Day was extended to honor all Americans who died while in the military service. The first widely publicized Memorial Day type of service was here in Charleston on May 1, 1865 after the Civil War. During the war, Union soldiers were held captive at the Charleston race course. Those that died were hastily buried in unmarked graves. Together, teachers, missionaries, and black residents of Charleston organized a May Day ceremony in 1865. Freedmen cleaned up and landscaped the burial grounds. Papers such as the New York Tribune and others covered this. That burial ground is known today as Hampton Park.
Long story short, we live in a great country, with a colorful past. Some good, some bad. Our military is there to protect our freedoms that our country gives us. I thank everyone who serves our country with the upmost respect. So yes, while Memorial Day typically starts the beginning of Summer, and you may be stuck in traffic trying to get on or off the island, please do not forget the history behind Memorial Day and those that served and gave their lives for us. Happy Memorial Day!
Recently, the IOP city council along with members of the planning commission met with representatives from Stantec, the city’s hired traffic engineers to see where they are at in the parking management process after almost a year. (To see a timeline of parking, please go to http://www.iop.net and click on the residents’ icon and then click on parking improvements.) At this most recent meeting, Stantec updated the city on the 3 phases of their contract. The 3 phases include looking up ownership of all the island’s roads and their corresponding rights of ways which include which ones are either state, city, or private. (Most of the roads are owned by the state.) Next was verification of right of way obstructions throughout the island. About 60% of the island has encroachments. The last phase is the parking permit allocation which ties in with the other two phases in that we need to know where we have enough clear right of way for parking. In essence, with a permit allocation system, all of the right of ways would be opened up, but only to those who pay for an annual pass. We do not know how many passes would be issued yet, it will have to be massaged as we go along. This process has come about because you, our residents, wanted something done about parking. A permit allocation system will limit cars. However, by going this direction, all the rights of ways have to be opened up everywhere on the island, but again, opened up to only to those that have passes, those that don’t will have to park at the municipal lots or at the county park. If we go this way, those who live on the back of the island will have to have passes to park up closer to the beach, it has to be equal to everyone if we use state rights of ways. We may create some shorter interval parking passes, say a month, weekly, or even daily. Right now, it is wide open, NO DECISIONS HAVE BEEN MADE. There will be public forums about whatever we do, but it is important that we get public input on this as we go along, especially those who live here on the island. Plus, if we go this direction, this cannot be a revenue generator for the island, but it has to be revenue neutral.
In order to meet the Beachfront Management Act, the city enacted a Local Comprehensive Beach Management Plan in 2008 in which we have to provide a certain number of accesses with parking spaces to the beach. By doing so, we qualify for state money should we need it to help re-nourish our beach. So far, only the Wild Dunes has needed such funds, but it is not to say other parts of the Isle of Palms won’t need it in the future. In fact, the southern end of the island has had severe erosion which the city is closely watching. As it stands right now, we far surpass the number of parking spaces needed. In fact, if we go by the DHEC OCRM Public Beach Access Facility Classification, we satisfy all parking requirements for about 1 mile from the front beach parking lots and county park. This takes us down to about 3rd Ave on the southwest end of the island and to about 30th Ave on the northeast end of the island.
Another option for the island is for us to take over the streets from the South Carolina Department of Transportation which would cost the city just under a million dollars a year. This represents about 10% of the city’s current budget and the city is currently EXTREMELY tight budget wise. In order to do this, the city would have to have a millage increase, is this something our residents want? If we went this direction, we could still have public parking, but any way we wanted to do it as long as we meet the Public Beach Access Classification. We could still have our commercial district parking, and we could still provide parking along sections of the island, but at a very controlled fashion. Or maybe could we take over most of the streets and leave Highway 703 to SCDOT which would satisfy the Beachfront Management Plan for parking yet protect our neighborhoods. This in not on the table in the city’s discussions, but it is something that is possible. If we were to consider this, I would expect the city to have to hold a referendum for the residents to make such a decision.
No matter what the island does, some will be happy, some will not. The Isle of Palms residents and property owners have demanded that their elected officials do something. It has been discussed since 2008 and the city has spent almost $100,000 in it’s hiring of Stantec for it’s research. In fact, this Saturday, you will notice a low flying airplane circling the island taking pictures of traffic and parking. Traffic counters throughout the island will also be used to help gather information. If the city chooses an annual pass system, it will cut back on total number of parking spaces while opening up all of the island’s rights of ways for parking. If we go this way, all the encroachments in the rights of ways will have to be removed. If we take over the roads, it will cost all property owners more in taxes but better protect our neighborhoods. The analysis that best describes our situation is like a football stadium that seats 80,000. When the stadium is sold out, there are no more seats. The island parking situation is similar, we have only so many parking spaces and we fill up most summer weekends. And the parking is spreading out deeper and deeper into our neighborhoods as the growth across the tri-county grows. In Mt Pleasant alone, there are 72,000 residents with a lot more coming. There are more than 365,000 residents in Charleston County, 189,500 in Berkeley County and 142,000 in Dorchester County with all growing. The easiest beach community to get to with the best beaches is the Isle of Palms. These problems are not tourism related, but day visitors. Tourism brings tax dollars to the island, tourist have parking spaces provided with the homes and condos they rent, but the day visitors bring little to the island except traffic with added cost to both our public safety and public works departments. Every year, the parking and traffic problems grow bigger. It is now becoming a safety issue due to streets becoming clogged, and traffic every which way. The decisions we make will impact the future quality of our island, not only for the next few years, but for generations to come. Again, we are not trying to say no to day visitors, but we want control over the quality of island. Make sure you voice your opinion to city hall, go to http://www.iop.net and send your feelings to council. Do we do nothing, do we implement a parking pass system or do we take over the maintenance of the roads and take control and limit parking? I write this to be informative, I honestly believe we need more transparency and not have what happened on Coleman Blvd. over in Mt Pleasant come as a surprise.
I thank the residents of the Isle of Palms for allowing me to serve them as one of their councilman. I promised to keep everyone informed and with this posting, I am hoping to get feedback.