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Isle of Palms Land-Purchase Plan Voted Down

Warwick Jones
Citizen Reporter

The recent application by the Isle of Palms Township appeared to have had a lot of merit. It was approved unanimously by the Urban Grants Review Committee and recommended by County Staff.

But it seems that some folk on the Isle of Palms were unhappy and feared a swelling of parking problems.

This caused the Parks and Recreation Commission to disapprove the application during a meeting last month. (Under the Green belt Plan the PRC must sign off on all urban grants.)

At issue was an application for $474,305 to be applied to purchase of 1.18 acres in the township at a cost of $1,333,500. This was a very high cost for so little land but the property had beach front and connected the beach to Palm Boulevard.

It seemed nobody has an issue with the cost. And indeed, Charleston County Councilman Dickie Schweers was uncertain whether there really was an issue. He had many calls from Isle of Palms residents about parking but the issue was never really related to this specific property.

In response to a motion by Councilman J. Elliott Summey, a decision was deferred for 30 days to give staff to look at the issues raised by residents.

There was little dissent amongst committee members in rejecting the application for $410,000 by the Mount Pleasant Land Conservancy to buy a 3.5-acre property in West Ashley. If the grant were approved, the property would be conveyed to the Charleston Parks Conservancy and would be its headquarters and used “for a community and family garden initiative.”

Council did not like the idea of a 6,000-square-foot structure being built on the small lot and wondered about the freedom of public access. Only Council member Colleen Condon voted for the grant.

The application by the Cultural and Life Enrichment Complex has been an issue since it was first considered by the Greenbelt Bank late last year. Originally the group sought $965,000 to buy an 11.6-acre property that abutted PRC’s Caw Caw Interpretive Center. The group planned to raise $2.58 million for buildings, parking, etc., on the property.

The Greenbelt Bank was skeptical about the price of the land and the ability of the group to raise funds for construction. At the urging of the bank, the group renegotiated the cost of the land to $650,000 and later, to $555,000. However, no progress was made in finding financing for the buildings proposed for the property.

Most Finance Committee members were disinclined to accede to the staff recommendation that the funding be approved, and with the provision that if funding for the buildings were not secured within three years, the property would revert to the PRC.

Schweers again noted that the town of Ravenel planned something similar at the Tea Farm Creek property that joined to Caw Caw. Mead Westvaco also planned something similar on its development in East Edisto.

Councilman Joe Qualey suggested that the acquisition of the property did not meet the criteria laid down in the Greenbelt Plan.

Council members Henry Darby, Anna Johnson and Teddie Pryor were the only members supporting the proposal.

Of the applications that were approved by the Finance Committee, the most impressive was that submitted by the U.S. Forest Service. It sought $1.6 million to apply to the purchase of 1,529 acres in the Frances Marion Forest for $4 million.

Schweers waxed enthusiastically over the application, the amount of acreage and the relative cheapness on a per-acre basis. Nobody disputed his opinion and it was unanimously approved.

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