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Latest News in Sullivan's Island, SC
Escaping the beach: Isle of Palms, Sullivan’s Island work to ease brutal summer traffic
The more popular Charleston’s beaches get, the worse traffic becomes. And there’s not a lot of room to grow.Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island, in particular, have little room for traffic control. They each have two ways to get off the island, and one of those ways is to go to the other island. The end of a day at the beach — or the second raindrops start to fall — turns the islands into traffic logjams where it can take ages to escape back to the mainland.While they know their critics want more a...
The more popular Charleston’s beaches get, the worse traffic becomes. And there’s not a lot of room to grow.
Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island, in particular, have little room for traffic control. They each have two ways to get off the island, and one of those ways is to go to the other island. The end of a day at the beach — or the second raindrops start to fall — turns the islands into traffic logjams where it can take ages to escape back to the mainland.
While they know their critics want more access to the beaches, the mayors of both towns say they are barely able to manage the current deluge of visitors.
Traffic is “the big nut that we’re all trying to crack, quite honestly,” Isle of Palms Mayor Phillip Pounds said.
To manage those visitors, Sullivan’s Island Mayor Pat O’Neil said he wants to see more support from Charleston County and the state with handling traffic congestion.
“We’re providing beach access in our own way to the greater population of South Carolina one way or another,” he said “We’ve been trying to stress that beach traffic, when you get it right down to it, is the same as after a USC football game or a Clemson football game or a big concert someplace.
“There are protocols for managing those kinds of events. We submit that a busy afternoon at the beach ... is an event. We should treat it as such, but we need help from the county and the state to treat it as such.”
For now, Isle of Palms, Sullivan’s Island and Mount Pleasant are working together to better manage traffic flow on and off the islands. The local municipalities have also partnered with local TV station WCIV ABC News 4 to get traffic information to people.
“We’re working with (WCIV) at their initiation on a communications plan to really try to get the word out so people can get in the habit of, ‘Let’s check the traffic cameras. Let’s check the traffic reports before we start a 40-minute drive to the beach to avoid getting caught in traffic,’” O’Neil said.
The islands are also investing money in:
“We’re trying to enhance people’s visit to our island, knowing it’s going to be crowded and knowing there’s a lot of people that want to come here,” Pounds said.
Dominion Energy lists Sullivan’s Island Sand Dunes Club for sale with $19M offer in hand
SULLIVAN’S ISLAND — Dominion Energy hopes to sell the Sand Dunes Club to a company owned by local billionaire Ben Navarro for $19 million, with plans in place to make it a club for island residents and property owners.The historic beachfront venue was created in the 1950s after South Carolina Electric & Gas bought the 3.5 acres from the federal government for $27,000 as properties associated with Fort Moultrie were being sold.With a large clubhouse, swimming pool, tennis courts and direct beach access, it was us...
SULLIVAN’S ISLAND — Dominion Energy hopes to sell the Sand Dunes Club to a company owned by local billionaire Ben Navarro for $19 million, with plans in place to make it a club for island residents and property owners.
The historic beachfront venue was created in the 1950s after South Carolina Electric & Gas bought the 3.5 acres from the federal government for $27,000 as properties associated with Fort Moultrie were being sold.
With a large clubhouse, swimming pool, tennis courts and direct beach access, it was used for decades as a corporate retreat, by island residents and rented out for events and meetings. Dominion Energy acquired the property when it bought SCE&G.
The energy company sought the state Public Service Commission’s permission to sell the property for $19 million to a subsidiary of Navarro’s Beemok Capital called SDCC Island Resident Club. In February the commission instead required Dominion list the property for sale and solicit bids.
“This simply means that Dominion Energy will need to determine whether other potential buyers exist,” said Rhonda Maree O’Banion, Dominion’s media relations manager.
“After the competitive bidding process is complete, Dominion Energy will report back to the commission and if necessary, update its request for approval to sell the Sand Dunes property,” she added.
The sale to Navarro’s company has been anticipated on Sullivan’s Island, a barrier island with fewer than 2,000 residents where the average home sale price in 2021 was nearly $3.2 million according to the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors.
One year ago the town signed an agreement with Navarro’s company that laid out plans to potentially renovate the club and operate it for island residents.
Beemok, the February 2021 agreement says, “desires to purchase the property from its current owner, renovate the clubhouse and operate the club.”
The agreement also says “the town believes a club with membership limited to town residents and property owners” would be desirable if the club were sold.
“That’s what we were expecting was going to happen,” Sullivan’s Island Mayor Patrick O’Neil said. “Mr. Navarro and his group have worked closely with the town.”
The agreement is non-exclusive and the same conditions apply to the property regardless of who were to buy it, he said.
The agreement says the price of membership in the club would not exceed the cost of operating the club, and the town would get to review confidential financial statements to ensure that provision.
Residents and town property owners could become members, and nonmembers could still use the pool for a fee comparable to what municipal recreation departments charge in Mount Pleasant or on Isle of Palms, the agreement says.
The address is considered a large property that’s most valuable as a potential site for new homes according to an appraisal submitted by Dominion, but the clubhouse is protected as an historic structure and could not be demolished without the town’s permission.
The property would not be the first iconic Charleston-area locale purchased by Navarro’s companies if his bid is successful. His companies own the Charleston Place hotel, purchased last year for $350 million, and the Credit One Bank Stadium on Daniel Island.
Efforts to reach representatives of Beemok Capital and the company’s public relations firm by phone and email were unsuccessful Friday.
The sale of the property would not change Dominion Energy’s utility rates or pricing according to the company’s Public Service Commission filing.
In 2021 Dominion turned over more than 2,900 acres of property as part of a $165 million tax settlement with the S.C. Department of Revenue, resolving a three-year dispute over taxes owed on parts and materials purchased to build the V.C. Summer nuclear plant, which was not completed. The Sand Dunes Club was not a part of that deal, but other former clubs and retreats in Aiken, Lexington and Georgetown counties were, and some of those will be added to the state’s park system.
Brian Symmes, spokesman for Gov. Henry McMaster’s office, said the state had been interested in the Sand Dunes Club property, but the cost was too high.
“There was interest in it being part of the settlement agreement, but at the end of the day it was just much too expensive,” he said.
The more than 2,900 acres South Carolina acquired, which included the Pine Island Club on Lake Murray, cost the state about $50 million — the amount Dominion’s tax debt was reduced in exchange for those properties. The Sand Dunes Club property, less than 4 acres, would presumably have cost at least the $19 million Beemok Capital has offered, and make for an unusually expensive park purchase.
The tax settlement was a part of the relief provided to ratepayers, shareholders and governments who sued after Dominion’s predecessor SCE&G abruptly ended construction at the V.C. Summer site in 2017.
Review: ‘Into the Woods’ is the right show for right now (by the right company, too)
After the past two years of strange new terrain, we all know what it feels like to be thrust into the great unknown.And when it comes to musical theater, no one mined the complexities of modern life with equal parts emotional depth and abiding elan in quite the way that Stephen Sondheim did.The heralded composer and lyricist was such a touchstone that his death in November at age 91 inspired a groundswell of mourning that for one gulp-inducing, glistening moment transformed my Twitter feed into a stronghold of tenderness....
After the past two years of strange new terrain, we all know what it feels like to be thrust into the great unknown.
And when it comes to musical theater, no one mined the complexities of modern life with equal parts emotional depth and abiding elan in quite the way that Stephen Sondheim did.
The heralded composer and lyricist was such a touchstone that his death in November at age 91 inspired a groundswell of mourning that for one gulp-inducing, glistening moment transformed my Twitter feed into a stronghold of tenderness.
With all that in mind, the timing of a new production of Sondheim’s celebrated 1986 musical, “Into the Woods,” was, in a word, apt. Who else could gently, smilingly guide us from a world constructed of clear-cut, attainable goals to one with murky, messy outcomes?
That is, after all, the thrust of the musical. It takes some of our favorite Brothers Grimm fairy tales, then twists and intertwines them in ways that offer us all new inroads to the tricky task of being human. Red Riding Hood, for instance, has agency in some of Jack’s decisions regarding that bean stalk. Cinderella gets entangled with the baker and his wife, with her prince in hot pursuit.
And it all plays out in song after stirring song, weaving the characters together and setting them apart, wending from the affable and catchy then wading deeper in ways that feel so curiously, ingeniously good for the soul.
It could also be said that Holy City Arts & Lyric Opera, or HALO as it’s known, was just the musical company for the job. In the perilous thicket of the pandemic, they launched Social Distance-SING!, regularly loading a pickup truck with a Fox Music House piano to bring opera to neighborhoods, free of charge.
This fall, general director Leah Edwards and artistic director Dimitri Pittas (who are married) launched HALO’s first full season with a production of “La traviata” at the Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park. Opera at The Joe, you ask? Yes, opera at The Joe. And, yes, it really worked.
So staging “Into the Woods” outside at Battery Gadsden Cultural Center on Sullivan’s Island represents the latest in HALO’s tradition of eschewing tradition.
For the production, they again tapped Ted Sperling as director. It should be noted that he comes to HALO with some serious Broadway bona fides, having served as music director for recent productions including “My Fair Lady” and “Fiddler on the Roof” (and starting with his first job as keyboard player for the original production of Sondheim’s and James Lapine’s “Sunday in the Park with George”).
It should also be noted that the effort necessary to mount this winning production was Herculean.
First off, it required building a theater on the site of historic fort and topping it off with a smart set that took full advantage of its surrounding forest. We were, literally, into the woods. Scenic designer Michael E. Downs did so to effective end, devising various platforms of rustic wood, on which all of the many places and plots could play out.
And then there’s that layered score, which entailed harnessing the talent to land one song after the next with equal parts vocal mastery and emotional resonance.
HALO did this by both bringing in some professional vocalists from afar, as well as grounding the show with local talent (among them Scott Pattison of PURE Theatre and Katie Small of Small Opera, as well as the local musicians who formed the live orchestra for the production, many of whom are bold-face names with Charleston Symphony). The result was a mix that was effective on stage and promising for Charleston’s artistic ecosystem.
About that talent: This is a production powered more by those phenomenal pipes than dramatic performances.
As Cinderella, Ashley Fabian transformed the crisp night air into a thing of stirring beauty. In the second act, when Brian Cali as Baker finally got his hard-earned big vocal moment after driving all that plot, he floored. As Rapunzel, Ashley Emerson also hit all the right notes, perfectly leveraging that stellar soprano voice to punctuate the action.
Some of the acting stood out. Audrey C. Black’s cheeky Red Riding Hood was just the ticket to portray the knife-wielding upstart, and was well-matched by Schyler Vargas’ lip-smacking Wolf. He was also comic catnip in his other role as Cinderella’s Prince, alongside Julian Black Gordon’s irresistibly grin-eliciting go at Rapunzel’s Prince. As Jack, Khamary Rose delivered true emotional resonance that served as the production’s moral core.
There were ample laughs, too, as evidenced by the convivial, all-in audience. I would contend there is even more humor to be coaxed from these Grimm characters rendered by Sondheim as all-too-humorously-human.
Props go to Carla Woods as Jack’s mother for such a coax, as well as her unflagging comic timing. And as Baker’s Wife, Molly Mustonen showed us her funny with her second-act (and vocal talents) in her stolen moments with Cinderella’s Prince.
Still, it is a delicate balance, this Sondheim business, as beneath all of the infectiously accessible spins on the Grimms, we eventually discover the lost little sheep that these Grimm figures are — well, that we all are. We are not, come to find out, out of the woods after all.
To wit: After suffering the bad behavior of The Witch for much of the show, I was utterly choked up by Marina Pires’ gutting rendition of “Stay with Me,” dreading as I already do the inevitable moment when my own daughter takes wing.
And, after all goes horribly awry and Fabian, Black, Cali Rose and Pires masterfully play the blame game in “Your Fault,” all excepting The Witch come together in “No One Is Alone,” a powerful message in these times when isolation was so unexpectedly thrust upon all of us.
All this, naturally, was buoyed by the exceptional musicianship of the 15-member live orchestra, which was situated nearby and which also offered many an uncannily-timed sound effect for the performers throughout.
With such riches on display, I’ll chalk up one or two flubbed lines and dead mics to opening-night vagaries, and I’m thinking you would too.
There is enough top talent and goodwill on offer to take a page from Sondheim’s book, and assure this inventive, ambitious, excellent Charleston company, who repeatedly go the distance to animate our spaces with song and heart, that they are not in it alone.
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Sullivan’s Island residents remain divided over forest as legal expert publishes opinion
SULLIVAN’S ISLAND, S.C. (WCSC) – Residents of Sullivan’s Island continue to remain divided days after a legal expert published an opinion stating the town’s settlement agreement cannot be enforced.William Wilkins, an attorney hired by Sullivan’s Island, published a 120-page opinion that states the town’s settlement agreement from last year regarding cutting the Maritime Forest is “invalid and unenforceable” under South Carolina law.“The way that the mediation settlement is s...
SULLIVAN’S ISLAND, S.C. (WCSC) – Residents of Sullivan’s Island continue to remain divided days after a legal expert published an opinion stating the town’s settlement agreement cannot be enforced.
William Wilkins, an attorney hired by Sullivan’s Island, published a 120-page opinion that states the town’s settlement agreement from last year regarding cutting the Maritime Forest is “invalid and unenforceable” under South Carolina law.
“The way that the mediation settlement is structured, cutting can begin immediately, and once cutting begins out in the Maritime Forest, we can’t undo it,” Sullivan’s Island for All President Karen Byko said.
The settlement agreement was first agreed upon in October 2020.
“That agreement basically allows the town to cut huge swaths of vegetation out of the Maritime Forest at the request of a few residents who want to cut down the forest in order to gain ocean views and breezes from their homes,” Byko said.
Laurie Volkmann lives across the street from the Maritime Forest and uses it to go on walks with her dog. She said the forest’s fate has polarized the town.
“The issue has been overblown a little bit to be ‘The people on the beach just want to have an oceanside view,’ and knowing the neighbors I’ve talked to, that’s not their primary concern,” Volkmann said.
Byko, meanwhile, said she wants the town to move forward immediately with a judicial review and undo the agreement to keep the forest intact.
Sullivan’s Island Mayor Pat O’Neill declined to have an on-camera interview on Thursday.
However, he released the following statement to Live 5:
“As Mayor, I read the opinion with considerable interest, and Mr. Wilkins’ analysis and conclusions seemed to be very clear and unequivocal. Town council has proceeded very methodically, and we will continue to do so.”
As for Volkmann, she said she believes in maintaining the forest to ward off pests and invasive species, but not cutting it all down.
“I would hope that as a community we could all read this and say, ‘We’re OK with some maintenance. We understand that we’re not just going to chop down all the trees, so that we have no Maritime Forest,’” Volkmann said.
The town’s administrator said over the phone that the town council will discuss the opinion over the coming days.
Copyright 2021 WCSC. All rights reserved.
Sullivan’s Island investigating illegal cutting of maritime forest
SULLIVAN’S ISLAND, S.C. (WCBD) – The Town of Sullivan’s Island is searching for those responsible for cutting down part of the island’s maritime forest. Town leaders are hoping to establish stricter penalties to prevent future cutting while residents are hoping the trees can be replaced.An employee with the town noticed the cutting around February 9th and reported it to town leaders leading to the town opening an investigation. Town leaders say preventing future cutting might be achieved through jail time or st...
SULLIVAN’S ISLAND, S.C. (WCBD) – The Town of Sullivan’s Island is searching for those responsible for cutting down part of the island’s maritime forest. Town leaders are hoping to establish stricter penalties to prevent future cutting while residents are hoping the trees can be replaced.
An employee with the town noticed the cutting around February 9th and reported it to town leaders leading to the town opening an investigation. Town leaders say preventing future cutting might be achieved through jail time or stricter fines.
“This is the epitome of selfishness,” says Town Councilman Scott Millimet reacting to the cutting.
Island residents were also upset with the cutting. “It’s clear these trees weren’t cut by accident, I mean they were purposefully cut to someone’s benefit,” says one resident.
A number of trees along Station 26, the width of a house were chopped and dropped in the town’s maritime forest. The island’s forest has become the center of a debate to save the town’s accredited land over the last several years.
“It damages everybody, it doesn’t just (damage) the two neighbors,” the resident said.
Dozens of trees have been marked and documented by town employees after being cut down. Councilman Millimet says residents couldn’t believe it when learning of the illegal cutting.
“General shock, frustration – bitterness,” says Councilman Millimet when referring to what he’s heard from residents.
Each tree cut down comes with a $1,040 fine but residents and leaders say that might not be enough to prevent future cutting.
“This just proves that there are those out there that until the punishment is enhanced, it’s going to continue,” says Councilman Millimet.
Councilman Millimet believes the fines should be raised and jail time considered for those responsible. “We can try to do some replanting,” says Councilman Millimet. “And then I think we also need to focus on enhancing the punishment.”
Advocates fighting for the future of the maritime forest agree with the measure. “While there are penalties, they are not severe enough to disincentive someone from potentially doing this again,” says Karen Byko, President of Sullivan’s Island 4 All.
With the damage already done along Station 26, leaders and residents hope they can stop additional chopping in the future.
“At the very least, I hope they replant these trees,” says the resident.
“There’s quite a bit of work to do but like I said we’ve got to get the ball rolling because the longer we wait, certain residents have shown that they will act in their own best interest and we’ve got to figure out how to prevent that,” says Councilman Millimet.
Town officials declined to provide a comment on the latest in the investigation.