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Latest News in Isle of Palms, SC
Isle of Palms renegade group Palm Republic seeks parking fight in SC Supreme Court
ISLE OF PALMS — As the new year approaches, the fight over public beach parking remains unsettled with a court case awaiting a decision by the state Supreme Court.The Palm Republic group created by Isle of Palms’ former mayor and a current councilman has asked the court to hear a constitutional challenge to a 2021 state law that says free beach parking along state roads can’t be removed without the state’s permission.It’...
ISLE OF PALMS — As the new year approaches, the fight over public beach parking remains unsettled with a court case awaiting a decision by the state Supreme Court.
The Palm Republic group created by Isle of Palms’ former mayor and a current councilman has asked the court to hear a constitutional challenge to a 2021 state law that says free beach parking along state roads can’t be removed without the state’s permission.
It’s a law created by Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Bonneau, and signed by Gov. Henry McMaster in the spring of 2021, following the island’s attempt in 2020 to remove much of the beach parking on the island and charge for the parking that would remain.
The S.C. Department of Transportation had already rejected the island’s plan to eliminate hundreds of parking spaces, and later stepped in to increase the amount of free parking near the beach on the island — “unilaterally and illegally” according to the Palm Republic lawsuit.
Those actions prompted Councilman Blair Hahn and former Mayor Jimmy Carroll to declare the island “The Palm Republic” in an airing of grievances that included a declaration of independence, signed in costume at a local bar.
At the time, Hahn was declared to be The Palm Republic’s “attorney general, also known as His Beaudacious Highness, Admiral and Grand Ruler of All Seas Less than 1 Fathom.” But he says the legal issues in play are not joke.
Carroll and Hahn have said the state law is an affront to home rule and the power of municipalities.
“We want our home rule back,” said Carroll. “We just want them to hear the case.”
State Rep. Joe Bustos, R-Mount Pleasant, agrees.
“There’s either going to be home rule, or there’s not,” he said.
The issue now is whether the Supreme Court will take what’s known as “original jurisdiction” and agree to hear the case, as Palm Republic LLC has asked.
The state, through Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office, and the DOT have both urged the court to not take the case. Both said there’s no urgency to rule on a law that’s been in effect for more than 18 months, and the case should be heard in a lower court.
“If the Supreme Court does not take the case, we’ll file the case in Charleston County,” Hahn said. “The only issue is, is the statute constitutional or not?”
He said the case would end up before the Supreme Court one way or another.
Like many barrier islands, Isle of Palms has sought to manage the flood of beach-bound traffic that arrives during the warm months. Conflict over the parking issue flared up in 2020 when the island prohibited non-residents from using the hundreds of free parking spots near the beach, citing COVID-19 concerns.
The attempt to eliminate parking and charge for what remained came the following year, prompting the creation of a nonprofit group that sued the city, the new state law, and action by SCDOT.
The Palm Republic group has been urging residents to write to local and state lawmakers, and the Supreme Court, to ask that the high court take the case.
SCDOT proposing traffic, safety changes to IOP Connector
ISLE OF PALMS, S.C. (WCBD) – Leaders on the Isle of Palms (IOP) listened to a presentation by officials from the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) on proposed changes to traffic on the IOP Connector. It comes nearly two years after the SCDOT restriped traffic lanes on the Connector.IOP City Council heard five proposed changes to traffic flow on the IOP connector. The changes could come as soon as next summer if approved by state and local leaders and the work gets underway.“We’re excited that...
ISLE OF PALMS, S.C. (WCBD) – Leaders on the Isle of Palms (IOP) listened to a presentation by officials from the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) on proposed changes to traffic on the IOP Connector. It comes nearly two years after the SCDOT restriped traffic lanes on the Connector.
IOP City Council heard five proposed changes to traffic flow on the IOP connector. The changes could come as soon as next summer if approved by state and local leaders and the work gets underway.
“We’re excited that SCDOT is finally doing what they should’ve done all along, which is provide options to the city and allow the city to make some choices along with the public,” says IOP City Councilman Blair Hahn.
The Connector was restriped in early 2021 and almost immediately raised safety and logistic concerns among leaders and residents. State officials hope one of the five proposals will address the concerns related to traffic and safety on the Connector.
“I think we should have an emergency lane for safety, for emergency vehicles,” says Hahn.
State officials say they’ve hired a firm to study the best options for change, balancing safety for pedestrians and bikers, traffic flow on and off the island, and emergency personnel’s access.
“Four of the concepts were essentially mirrors of one another,” says Rob Perry, Chief Engineer of Bridges for SCDOT. “They move the multi-use path to one side of the bridge or the other. The fifth concept took two lanes of traffic and added two lanes of traffic, leaving the Isle of Palms.
City Council raised several questions state officials will now work to answer. SCDOT will present a completed report on the proposed options, including a recommendation to City Council in early 2023.
“We kind of took the first big hurdle tonight,” says Mayor Phillip Pounds. “I thought they were some great options, I look forward to having the final report, which to their comment is two to three hundred pages, but I think a good start.”
SCDOT officials will take these five proposals to Mount Pleasant Town Council in the coming weeks. They will then have a thirty-day public comment period for people to offer feedback on the proposed changes. Isle of Palms will have a traffic expert also look at these changes.
Isle of Palms Is the Coastal Getaway of the Summer
Tara Massouleh McCayhttps://www.southernliving.com/travel/south-carolina/isle-of-palms-south-carolina
The South Carolina barrier island just 30 minutes from Charleston may just be the area’s best-kept secret.Swaths of uninterrupted white-sand beach, the smell of salty spray, warm sun on your skin, and the rustle of palm fronds gently blowing in the wind—these are the sights, sounds, and scents of Isle of Palms. The South Carolina barrier ...
The South Carolina barrier island just 30 minutes from Charleston may just be the area’s best-kept secret.
Swaths of uninterrupted white-sand beach, the smell of salty spray, warm sun on your skin, and the rustle of palm fronds gently blowing in the wind—these are the sights, sounds, and scents of Isle of Palms. The South Carolina barrier island packs a lot of relaxation and big fun into a vacation destination that's just seven miles long and one mile wide. The island's proximity to Charleston (just 18 miles by car), make it a preferred summer hideout for locals. An abundance of vacation rentals and the iconic Wild Dunes resort have been drawing visitors from across the country since the early 1970s.
With the deep blue Atlantic on one side and marshy creeks of the Intracoastal Waterway on the other, Isle of Palms offers the best of the Lowcountry and the beach in one stunning setting that's begging to be added to your vacation calendar.
Six of Isle of Palms' seven total miles are occupied by public beaches, which means you'll have your pick of the litter when looking for a sandy spot where you can post up for the day—or the week. Once you've staked your claim, all the normal beach activities are yours for the choosing, from splashing around in the surprisingly calm seas to building the ultimate sandcastle or playing a game of beach volleyball. For families, the Isle of Palms County Park, located in the middle of the island's coastline, is ideal. The public beach has lifeguards, outdoor showers, chair and umbrella rentals, restrooms, and even a playground for little ones retreat to once they tire of the sun and surf.
Make the most of a visit to Isle of Palms by scheduling a charter to take you offshore. Get your sea legs at the Isle of Palms Marina, where you can easily rent a boat and spend a day exploring the island's bays and waterways. Fishing charters are plentiful and offer both reef fishing and Gulf Stream fishing. For adventure enthusiasts or wildlife lovers, Barrier Island Eco Tours hosts a range of naturalist-guided tours that take visitors through winding salt marshes, tidal creeks, and the Intracoastal Waterway on the way to uninhabited Capers Island. Animals you might see along the way include loggerhead turtles, bottlenose dolphins, and every shape and size of coastal birds.
Breakfast is noteworthy at Sea Biscuit Café. The tiny beachside shack has been dishing out delicious morning meals since 1968. While they offer all the classics, the daily specials are where the magic happens. Past offerings have included chocolate banana challah French toast, lemon lavender pancakes, and tomato pie.
When you need a mid-day refuel for the whole family, Coconut Joe's is the obvious choice. Located on Isle of Palms' main drag, you won't have to venture far to get fresh seafood and impeccable vibes. The open-air covered deck is the ideal spot for munching on the restaurant's namesake shrimp, while rocking sandy toes and sun-bleached hair. When happy hour hits, venture to the rooftop bar for a frozen cocktail or painkiller. Nothing will put you on island time faster.
By the time you're finally ready to come in from the sun and go out to dinner, Isle of Palms will be waiting with plenty of options. The Boathouse and Acme Lowcountry Kitchen are island staples that have stood the test of time thanks to excellent quality food and good old-fashioned Southern hospitality. For a special night out, try Coda del Pesce, a fine dining restaurant that specializes in Italian with lots of influence (and fresh catch) from the nearby seas.
All trips to Isle of Palms must include at least one visit to The Windjammer at Front Beach. The legendary local music venue is known for its incredible live shows, stellar views of the water, cold drinks, and unbeatable fried pickles.
The obvious choice for places to stay in Isle of Palms is Wild Dunes Resort, a 1,600-acre family-friendly resort that offers everything from rooms and suites at two inns, to private beach condos and home rentals. In addition to a more-than-comfortable stay, the resort also features several resort-style pools, a spa, and two championship golf courses.
If you're hoping for a cozier stay, the newly renovated Palms Oceanfront Hotel consists of 68 modern rooms with gorgeous views of the sparkling Atlantic. There are also plenty of rentals through Airbnb and VRBO for everything from multifamily waterfront homes to one-bedroom condos.
Whether you book for a long weekend or stay for an entire week, the memories and magic of Isle of Palms will stay with you for months and years to come—maybe even until you have a chance to make another trip back!
A Great White Shark Gets Up Close and Personal
Captain Jim Hutson, a fishing guide, wildlife photographer, and conservationist based in Charleston, South Carolina, saw a great white shark swim under his boat four years ago, but the moment happened too quickly for him to document it. That was not the case Wednesday, when he and two friends boated thirty miles off the coast of Isle of Palms and pulled up over a shipwreck.“Right when we started getting lines in, I saw this fin that I thought was a sunfish,” Hutson says. “I went up to the bow, looked over, and said, ...
Captain Jim Hutson, a fishing guide, wildlife photographer, and conservationist based in Charleston, South Carolina, saw a great white shark swim under his boat four years ago, but the moment happened too quickly for him to document it. That was not the case Wednesday, when he and two friends boated thirty miles off the coast of Isle of Palms and pulled up over a shipwreck.
“Right when we started getting lines in, I saw this fin that I thought was a sunfish,” Hutson says. “I went up to the bow, looked over, and said, nope, that’s a giant great white.” During winter, great white sharks appear off the coasts of South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia, where there are warmer waters, but it’s still extremely rare to see one. “We were all just amazed at this animal that makes you feel so small.” Hutson estimates that the shark, which he later identified as a female, was at least thirteen feet long and nearly as wide as his boat.
He was able to get drone footage before she swam away, and the trio headed off to a few more fishing spots before returning to the wreck just in case she decided to reappear. Sure enough, “she popped right up” as they arrived, and this time, she circled the boat, taking a special interest in the motor, and allowed Hutson time for more footage, some underwater. “We had a live well of bait, so there was definitely a scent trail,” he says. “And she doesn’t have any predators, so she probably felt she could do whatever she wanted and check out whatever was going on.”
The footage reveals a whole school of fish traveling with her—“an animal this big has its own zip code,” as Hutson puts it—plus curious scratch marks on the face, possibly from prey like a seal fighting back. All told, the great white spent a half hour around the boat, giving the three friends the experience of a lifetime. “We caught grouper, snapper, triggerfish, and amberjack, but I would have taken seeing that shark over anything,” Hutson says. “I’d seen one great white in the past fifteen years of guiding, and yesterday, we got to hang out and observe this one for so long. Absolutely incredible experience.”
Editorial: Isle of Palms officials have given no good reason to shrink council. Vote no.
THE EDITORIAL STAFFhttps://www.postandcourier.com/opinion/editorials/editorial-isle-of-palms-officials-have-given-no-good-reason-to-shrink-council-vote-no/article_9bb437c0-44cf-11ed-9e8c-c36c4f03bea7.html
Ever since the Isle of Palms incorporated in the 1950s, voters have elected eight at-large council members and a mayor. In the coming month, these city voters will decide if that’s two council members too many.We don’t think it is. More specifically, we don’t see any big advantage that shrinking City Council would provide to residents, and we see a few disadvantages.The idea of reducing council’s size has been batted around quietly for several years, Mayor Phillip Pounds tells us, partly because the city...
Ever since the Isle of Palms incorporated in the 1950s, voters have elected eight at-large council members and a mayor. In the coming month, these city voters will decide if that’s two council members too many.
We don’t think it is. More specifically, we don’t see any big advantage that shrinking City Council would provide to residents, and we see a few disadvantages.
The idea of reducing council’s size has been batted around quietly for several years, Mayor Phillip Pounds tells us, partly because the city does seem to have a rather large council for its size, about 4,400 residents. Only about 4% of South Carolina municipalities have more than seven council seats, and most of them are much larger. For instance, Charleston, North Charleston and Mount Pleasant have 12, 10 and 8 council seats, respectively.
The debate has remained fairly quiet, even as the council added it to the Nov. 8 ballot, and with less than three weeks remaining before early voting starts, no one has offered a compelling reason to vote “yes.” The conservative approach to any referendum question is to maintain the status quo unless there’s a compelling reason to make a change.
The primary upside of shrinking the Isle of Palms council apparently is saving a little time for council members and staff. Not to knock efforts to improve efficiency, but that strikes us as pretty thin gruel. It’s true that voters still would have six council members representing them (all seats are at-large), but who’s to say that the seventh or eighth council member wouldn’t be the one who listens to particular voters’ concerns most closely — and does the best job representing them?
Because of the way the reduction is planned, if voters approve it in the referendum, the City Council would be a mess for two years. The slim-down would be phased in with voters electing just three rather than four seats in the 2023 city election and then doing the same thing in the 2025 election. That would leave the council with an even number of votes (including the mayor’s) for two years. That might make a big difference, delaying important action on an important issue. Or not. But why take the risk?
This issue seems to be important mainly inside City Hall. While Mayor Pounds tells us he supports the idea, he acknowledges that the average Isle of Palms resident seems to have little skin in this game: “I can’t imagine they would notice a blip if we have five council members or seven or nine.”
If City Council members believe the current city governance is inefficient, then perhaps they should come up with changes that don’t affect the voters’ ability to elect council members. And if council members believe the job requires too much work — about 10 hours of work a week, on average — for too little pay (council members make $1,500 a year, but do qualify for health insurance benefits), perhaps they should either reexamine their work schedule or step aside for someone else to serve.
The council’s relative size might make the job of its members more time-consuming, but that also might work to ensure that their consensus, once they arrive at one, will better stand the test of time.
The city is grappling with big decisions, from the future of its marina to possible adjustments in its short-term rental rules to the logistical headaches involved in managing summertime crowds. We’re unconvinced City Council would make better decisions with fewer council members.