PLATFORM - Increasing Demands, Fixed Supply
The Isle of Palms profile is a testament to the overwhelming success and attractiveness of our home. We are all fortunate to live in a place that everyone wants to enjoy, and we continue to roll out the “Welcome” sign. As the volume continues to increase, some beyond capacity, it comes with an increasing cost to our quality of life and levels of service as residents of the Isle of Palms.
The Isle of Palms has a fixed footprint of only 4.4 square miles. The key word is FIXED. Our community has a full-time resident population of only 4,347 (2020 census), which represents a decline of over 5% since 2000. Since the 2020 census, estimates are showing a continued decline in residential population.
Meanwhile, over the past 20 years, the explosive growth in the surrounding area, plus attracting domestic and global destination visitors, have resulted in an ever-increasing demand on IOP’s resources including:
About 10 million annual Crossings on the Connector & Breach Inlet, bringing millions of visitors;
Business interests on IOP generating about $250 Million in annual revenue;
A robust real estate community supporting/selling/renting/managing IOP’s 4,586 homes;
Over 1,800 Short Term Rentals, plus world class hotels, offering up to 6,000 bedrooms for rent;
Island events that can swell the island population and traffic by over 10X in a single day;
Increased demands and stress on public safety, sanitation, wildlife, the environment, and water.
Competing access to public amenities such as restaurants, grocery, golf, pickleball, tennis, and others;
Nearly $1.2 million of the IOP’s annual budget is dedicated by legislation to promoting more and more visitors to enjoy IOP’s treasures and hospitality.
ALL of these trends continue to increase, while full and part time IOP resident populations have not.
Platform Topics Related to Growth - Input Welcome
There is much talk about Home Rule. It's constructive action that matters. I support retaining municipal decision making at the local level and will defend our ability to set direction locally, for the critical issues that impact our home.
In April, I testified in Columbia at Joe Bustos’s Committee (Medical, Military, Public & Municipal Affairs) hearing to defend against H3253 - legislation that proposed taking away municipality rights to make local decisions regarding short-term rentals, moving those decisions to the State level, with severe penalties attached in the event a municipality acted without state approvals. This was/is a direct attack on IOP and all South Carolina municipality's' Home Rule.
Representative Joe Bustos and Senator Chip Campsen did everything within their purview to halt those efforts and invited representatives from municipalities to assist in sending a clear message to the state legislators, which is a role I gladly accepted. The outcome was to stall the legislation, for now, however there is an expectation it will be resurrected during in the next legislative session.
As your representative, regardless of the issue at hand, I will do whatever possible to voice our position to retain IOP's decision making, locally. Each municipality is different, and regardless of the outcome locally, we should retain the ability to make those decisions.
Watch the video below of my testimony and Q&A.
CONSERVATION, RECREATION, DENSITY ORDINANCES
I fully supported the 5 Zoning Ordinances and as your representative, I will continue to support them.
There is a lawsuit pending challenging these Ordinances.
I sleep well at night knowing the Isle of Palms have top rated police and fire departments. The primary reason is clearly its leadership and the team/tools that have been assembled to address the needs of our residents and visitors.
Chief Oliverius and Chief Cornett engage actively in our community as well as successfully recruited highly qualified teams that work in tandem with each other. That's critical, given the increasing demands our island is experiencing in rescue, crime, and day to day requirements.
The Public Safety teams have also established collaborative and reciprocal agreements with surrounding communities to help in peak times, when we need assistance, all while lending a hand to those municipalities in return.
As a Council member, my role has been to support the requests and staffing needs to ensure we are never short handed or without the adequate resources to meet the Public Safety demands.
I've supported technology, personnel protective gear, and equipment requests, plus the 6 new EMS staff member augmentation underway - thank you Councilmember Jan Anderson for championing this over the last two years.
I will continue to support these critical teams, so we can address what's coming - increased and unexpected demands as we witnessed in April, 2023. Unfortunately, with all the continued growth in the area, the assessment is that events these continued demands on the Public Safety teams will increase and I will do everything to support them.
We have work to do on enforcement - which is improving with the addition of staff this summer - but will continue to be a focus on Council. Ordinances need to be written, so they are enforceable as well.
On a side note - Isle of Palms is hiring a new prosecutor - Culver Kidd. Let's welcome him and ensure he also has the resources to work and support our Public Safety teams in his role in law enforcement.
ISLAND & BEACH SANITATION
I support a Pack it In, Pack it Out approach. Seems like a no brainer. Let’s identify solutions to this ever-growing issue and encourage all to help with ideas and enforceable approaches.
We’ve all seen what people can leave behind on the beach, in our yards, public areas, and streets. I’ve met with Public Works Director Pitts and his key staff. The island is not growing, but we are “growing up” he says. Higher, bigger structures, more cans, and more debris.
We’re all seeing the extra debris and unfortunate delays that our Public Works staff are addressing. The major drivers include higher development, surrounding growth with higher volumes of visitors, and more delivery. This trend will likely not reverse in our lifetime, and we will need to plan to help the Public Works department and residents manage island and beach sanitation.
The IOP Beach Cleanup team and other off island groups have produced amazing results through volunteerism, resulting in a much cleaner beach and town. However, as an occasional participant over the years, I can attest that each year, the challenge is becoming much greater and the beach is stressed with debris at all access points, every day. If you can spare an evening or early morning, please volunteer.
SHORT-TERM RENTALS (STR)
Resident input... 80%+ of IOP residents emailing or speaking at Council meetings favored limits.
Last year's 28%+ growth trend in STR licenses.
Nearly 40% of all IOP dwelling units are short term rentals.
Impacts to the IOP neighborhoods (Forest Trail doubling in STR license penetration in one year).
Growing tourism promotion budgets.
Actions by surrounding communities to limit STR licenses pushing investors to IOP’s wide open market, and
The forecast for continued increased demands over the next several years....
I fully support a balanced and reasonable limit on non-resident STRs, with the exclusion of IOP’s commercial district at Front Beach.
I will vote YES on November 7th, to limit non-resident STR licenses to 1,600, which represents a BALANCE of 35% of dwelling units, doesn’t take anything away from current license holders, won’t impact city revenue, excludes full time residents (4%) and allows passage to heirs. Learn more at preserveiop.org
I support residents’ desire to remain a residential community vs IOP becoming primarily a rental community.
I also commit to, and believe a new council will proactively address the exclusion of the Commercial district, if the referendum passes. STRs licenses are Business licenses.
The recent addition of the STR Coordinator position is huge and provides an opportunity to get in front of the STR impacts and information going forward.
Lastly, enforcement is still an issue and IOP’s ordinances require an overhaul to help our law enforcement staff. During my initial term I’ve heard repeatedly about the challenges of enforcing the ordinances on the books. Many are simply unenforceable, and we should not only ask why, but address any deficiencies, while eliminating useless laws.
Let’s keep moving! Neighboring communities are exploding toward 1 million in population. The IOP Connector and Breach Inlet bridge have had over 10 million crossings annually, with the shoulder season vanishing. On Coleman Ave, throughout Mt. Pleasant, and Charleston County, housing projects continue to grow adding volume to both access bridges while advertising IOP’s close beach access.
Solutions are available to IOP now, including parking automation/definition to show available spaces, Connector Lane reconfiguration (SCDOT has this underway), more on/off island light coordination, County Park flow modifications, added traffic/BSO personnel (approved this season), effective public transportation w/off-island parking, re-examining enforceable policies.
Other efforts I support include the evaluation of outsourcing of parking management and looking at alternatives for Palm Boulevard between 21st and 41st.
I will seek funding sources and collaboration at all levels to allevaiate congestion on the IOP main roads and throughout the neighborhoods.
Beach access routinely gets lumped together with traffic congestion, parking, and unfettered access to family residential neighborhoods. They are all very different - we all know the IOP beaches are open to all. We welcome visitors. Residents have clearly voiced their desire to protect the IOP 2015 Parking Plan along with the recent update. I will continue to support that position. With over 1,750 offered public beach parking spots, and hundreds more that are not included in that count, IOP provides more public parking by any measure – by mile of beach, access point, and proximity to water.
I’m a huge supporter and experienced in leveraging technology, transparency, data science, and automation. We have an opportunity on IOP to significantly improve communication to residents, and shorten decision cycles with quicker, shared access to IOP key information. We have about $800,000 in the FY24 budget for “IT Services” that can be reviewed for more efficient use of automation, communication, information access and technology opportunities.