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The Town of Sea Islands - an Intriguing possibility
Lee Walton

Much to the chagrin of both the Palter & Chatter and J. Pericles Riley, the supporters of a third incorporation effort on James Island have received authorization from the Secretary of State to hold a referendum this summer. Predictably, the negative tone and structure of recent Palter & Chatter articles leaves little of their position to ponder, driven no doubt by blind allegiance to Pericles and his relentless thirty year lust to annex all of James Island.

One intriguing possibility that a new town on James Island might precipitate is the creation of a larger sea island municipality. Over the past two decades urbanism and incompatible suburban sprawl have had profound adverse impacts upon the unique sea island heritage, culture and quality-of-life shared by James and Johns Islands. Foremost among the endangered heritage found almost exclusively on these Islands is an African American culture anchored to family farms held for generations and also recognized world wide as the cradle of the gullah-geechee dialects once so prevalent in the Lowcountry. Growing numbers of both "bin yuhs 'n cum yuhs" now shun the perceived convenience of nearby urban and suburban living for the peace, quietude and slower-paced life style on these sea islands.

Urban Growth Boundaries created by Charleston County on Johns Island and, to a lesser extent, James Island provide some limited protection to their common heritage, cultural and family farms. Lower rural densities, green space buffer requirements, and other land use restrictions may, in theory, offer some protection from wholesale urbanization now occurring inside the Urban Growth Boundaries, but when the smoke clears, cultural heritage will be no match for greed, increased tax revenues and political intrigue. County Council's will to protect these last remaining vestiges of local sea island culture is problematic at best and dependant solely upon a Council easily influenced and when necessary, intimidated by Pericles as he seeks to gain greater influence and control over the lower County.

Incorporation of a major part of James Island offers an opportunity to extend this new municipal boundary southward onto Johns Island. A locally elected, single-member district municipal council directly accountable to the sea island residents would offer profoundly more security than the politically malleable protection provided by County Council. The scale of government and extent of public services could be as desired by the sea island residents, not those provided by a parochial Council representing the broader needs of the entire County.

The rural fire commissions and utility districts now existing on these Sea Islands could be consolidated to provide increased economies of scale and more cost-effective public service delivery than now possible. Police protection could continue to be provided by the County Sheriff's Department. As County residents, all citizens of Charleston County have the right to police protection provided by the Sheriff's Department whether incorporated or not.

Notwithstanding all other possibilities, the greatest benefit to the Sea Islands would be the right of self-determination. Annexation into an expandable sea island municipality started on James Island could provide local protection from suburban sprawl caused by inappropriate land use planning and zoning changes. Incorporation would also stop the relentless annexations by Pericles who is more than willing to gobble up and assimilate any land of perceived value. Incorporation would also provide a "seat at the big folk's table" with direct, local control over development caused by the construction of I-526 across Johns Island.

A municipality of Sea Islands could provide public utilities tailored to specific needs for rural water supply, fire protection and, possibly, limited wastewater service. Local land use planning and zoning could be tailored to the unique needs and quality-of-life issues common only to the Sea Islands. Continued agricultural uses, protection of historic sea island landmarks and wildlife habitat preservation could be commonly held goals.

Critics, led by a "firebrand" waving Pericles and his hobbled Palter & Chatter editors, will scream, "We don't need another small town in Charleston County to hinder our progress. We, in our infinite wisdom, know what's best - trust us." Just look where that trust has gotten the residents of James Island: the Dill Sisters' will broken by political greed to turn an intended wildlife preserve into high-density residential developments, the "adaptive use" of the historic McLeod Plantation as a school, and the unpardonable destruction of the historic Harbor View "Summer House."

For those who have chosen to live on the Sea Islands south of Charleston, ask yourselves who's looking out for your best interest? Is it County Council? A qualified "maybe" at best. It certainly isn't Pericles as he pursues his dreams of conquest throughout the Lowcountry. A Town of Sea Islands may not be that far fetched, particularly when you ponder the alternatives.

Charleston Water Systems, aka Charleston CPW, treated the folks in Lincolnville to a Lowcountry Boil this past week. Wonder who they'll "cater to" next?

Your Comments:

I only happened onto your thoughts quite accidentally. I was quite pleased, being a James Island resident, and sharing your opinion totally. I even had the very same idea occur to me just yesterday. I had been listening to an interview with the mayor of Bluffton and had thoughts about the Kiawah and Seabrook Islands townships. It is in the best interests of both James Island and Johns Island to stand together against Pericles and for each other. Pool their assets and preserve their heritage and lifestyle. I feel their MUST be MANY more out there that could and would agree. This SHOULD go forward.

Posted by: Carolyn at May 10, 2006 03:01 PM

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