Commentary: Paradise misplaced — How some Islanders couldn’t see the wonder for the forest | Commentary


By Steve Bailey

Assume your vote doesn’t matter? Think about the story of the Sullivan’s Island maritime forest.

Greg Hammond, who works for Charleston billionaire investor Ben Navarro and lives in a $Three million oceanfront home, final yr was elected to Sullivan’s Island City Council by a single vote. That one-vote margin, in flip, allowed Hammond this month to forged the deciding vote that can endlessly change the island’s magical maritime forest. This can’t be allowed to face.

At a second when oceans are rising and seashores are eroding (see Isle of Palms and Folly Seashore — and the opposite finish of Sullivan’s for that matter), the maritime forest is a present, a present of nature and the jetties. However somewhat than being grateful for all they’ve been given, a few of the most blessed folks on the planet have spent years hysterical about this miracle of nature.

The forest, the beachfront millionaires cost in a decade-old lawsuit, is a scary place infested with coyotes and snakes and vermin, oh my! The forest might go up in flames! There are mosquitos! It might harbor criminals! You may’t make up these things — it takes an exceptionally gifted lawyer to do this.

The true situation, and they’re specific about it of their lawsuit, is that the forest blocks their ocean views and hurts their property values. “The plaintiffs’ properties have been decreased in truthful market worth by a million ($1,000,000) {dollars},’’ they stated within the 2010 lawsuit.

What they don’t say is that nobody benefited greater than the entrance seashore owners when the city, displaying unusual imaginative and prescient, helped create a belief in 1991 that will endlessly defend the land that was accreting, due to the jetties simply offshore. This meant beachfront house owners would by no means have to fret a few new row of homes blocking their views. To see what might have been, look no farther than Isle of Palms, the place developer J.C. Lengthy infamously bulldozed the dunes round Christmas 1974 to money in on a hideous new entrance row.

The increasing Sullivan’s Island beachfront, nevertheless, belongs to not the owners however to the general public. The land belief was created for the numerous not the few. Solely 10% of the island’s 900 houses abut the protected zone, a lot of them second houses. The Structure ensures nobody the proper to unobstructed oceanviews from the master bedroom of their seashore home.

Bob Trussler has spent 39 years on the island, most of it on the second row at Station 16. It’s not the forest blocking residents’ views, he says, however the ever-larger trophy houses being constructed on the oceanfront. The forest has protected his neighborhood from storms; reducing it again is “insane.”

“Let nature do its factor, and ultimately you get one thing stunning,” says Trussler, a retired architect.

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And that it’s — as stunning a backyard, wild and genuine, as you will discover wherever. However get pleasure from it when you can, as a result of the beachfront property house owners are about to show it right into a manicured forest to match their manicured yards.

Beneath a settlement negotiated behind closed doorways, the primary 100 toes in entrance of the property house owners’ houses will probably be clear lower aside from mature palmettos and stay oaks. Householders, block by block, will have the ability to fund the pruning of bigger timber and elimination of most cedars, pines, hackberries and underbrush far down the seashore.

To Hammond, it’s a “affordable compromise.” Mayor Pat O’Neil calls it “legally mandated deforestation.”

If not the need of the folks, this alleged compromise is the need of the City Council’s “4 cutters,” as they’re recognized. Hammond, 38, and his next-door neighbor, Chauncey Clark, who has his personal $Three million home on the seashore, joined with Tim Reese, one of many island’s high actual property brokers, and Kaye Smith to approve the settlement. Collectively, they muscled by means of a collection of 4-Three votes.

Requested to incorporate their signatures on the settlement, they voted in opposition to that, too, 4-3. However make no mistake: If this outrage stands, the 4 cutters will probably be remembered simply as J.C. Lengthy and his bulldozers are all these years later.

The very best hope for saving the forest now rests with the state Division of Well being and Environmental Management and the Military Corps of Engineers, which should allow the work. And a city election in Might, an opportunity to vote the bums out, or at the least a few of them.

Even now, there stays a greater resolution to this contentious mess; the Albenesius household, one of many authentic plaintiffs, confirmed the best way. In 2017, seven years after submitting the lawsuit, they bought their huge fashionable beachfront home on Atlantic Avenue and moved.

It’s such an inexpensive compromise, truly, for distraught owners. Transfer — there will probably be no scarcity of consumers delighted to take your home in paradise. And in case your property values have been dented a bit by that scary forest, right here’s betting your neighbors are prepared to start out a GoFundMe web page to ship you in your method.

Steve Bailey may be reached at Comply with @sjbailey1060.

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