Monday, January 16, 2017 Blog

Bay Point development is a lose-lose-lose proposition. The nation’s newest national monument, in SC! Too much of a good (Sullivan’s Island) thing. Cruise ships in Mt. Pleasant? Long live the Conservation Bank!

by Andy Hollis


This week’s news featured some of the Lowcountry’s most noteworthy places – some threatened with disappearing, others disparaged as oversized, some on the brink of revival, others endowed with national significance.

But first, you probably noticed that most of this month has not felt like January. In fact, Charleston set a temperature record on Friday the 13th, (ominously), of 80 degrees. While this may have been exciting if you were headed for the beach, people who follow climate research found it unsettling. It’s hard to take unequivocal pleasure in bathing suit weather in the middle of the winter. (I’m writing this e-mail while sitting outdoors at 5:00 PM swatting mosquitos.)

Fortunately, we have a good chance to curb greenhouse gas emissions. South Carolina’s solar energy law, passed three years ago, has produced nothing short of a tsunami of solar investment. This article, from the South Carolina Business News Network, describes the meteoric rise of solar power, (admittedly, from a very small base), over the past few years.

The article states:

The state had 53.02 megawatts of installed solar capacity in the first half of 2016, compared to 4.2 MW installed in all of 2015.

“South Carolina was not one of the bigger states, and the total capacity that we are talking about is not that big by comparison; but the percentage of growth is huge and it positions the state to be a national leader in terms of solar energy,” said Dan Whitten, vice president of communication for the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Utility companies in South Carolina saw the biggest jump in solar installation. The report said that segment had 39.77 MW of installed solar capacity in the first half of the year, up significantly from the 3.4 MW installed in all of 2013.

Residential solar installations have also jumped significantly. In the first half of 2016, residences have 10 MW of installed solar capability, up from 1.95 MW installed on homes in all of 2015 in South Carolina.

In short, the 40-fold increase in solar energy production we hoped for by 2020 looks like it will be an underestimate. That’s good for the economy and good for winter temperatures.

Speaking of going to the beach, the town of Hilton Head is debating whether they should annex one of the state’s smallest barrier islands, Bay Point, and facilitate its development. This seems like a no-brainer. (The answer is no). But apparently, to the town council and the mayor, it is not that clear cut.

You will enjoy the short video imbedded in this article from the Island Packet. In it, our Beaufort director, Kate Schaeffer, explains in less than 2 minutes why annexation would be a “lose-lose-lose” proposition for Hilton Head financially, reputationally and environmentally. You may not enjoy the two-minute video of the Beaufort lawyer representing the Bangkok-based development company, explaining why it is a good idea to develop this unstable island, but you will learn that the rationale has nothing to do with logic.

The developers plan to shuttle guests to the Bay Point resort from Hilton Head. But the work force would reportedly come via St. Helena Island. As wrong-headed as this sounds, they would at least be able to enjoy America’s newest national monument.

President Obama has named the historic Penn Center, the Baptist church across the street, (a.k.a. the “Brick Church”), and a few other sites on St. Helena as the Reconstruction Era National Monument. David Lauderdale’s editorial from the Island Packet does a beautiful job of telling the story of Penn’s significance through its connections to two great campaigners for civil rights – Martin Luther King, Jr. and Hastings Gantt. Gantt was a former slave who was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and became an inspiring symbol for a newly freed population.

Most beaches like Bay Point must confront the existential dilemma of erosion. But just north of Charleston, Sullivan’s Island dares to be different. For more than a decade, some Sullivan’s residents have complained mightily (and in court) that they have too much beach – so much so, that homeowners who once could see the ocean can now only gaze into the darkness of a maturing maritime forest. This article from the Post and Courier provides a status report on the battle over the “accreted land,” which the town wisely placed under easement with the Lowcountry Land Trust.

It’s difficult, apparently, to find that sweet spot between being swept away by the ocean and buried under a mound of sand and vegetation. If only those barrier islands would just stay put!

Staying put is not the mantra of the cruise industry, whose goal it is to provide every person on the planet at least one five day trip on a gigantic, soot belching, sewage spewing, floating hotel with all you can eat buffets on every floor. While Charleston’s battle over cruise ships drags on into its seventh year, some Mt. Pleasant officials have been quietly courting cruise ship lines on the other side of the river. According to the Post and Courier, they have succeeded in convincing at least one line to call on the town. The ships would moor in the harbor and shuttle passengers to Patriot’s Point.

On the positive side, these ships would be smaller vessels and would make “port-of-call” stops, unlike the gargantuan Carnival ships that annually attract hundreds of thousands of customers who drive to Charleston, park their cars on the most valuable real estate in South Carolina, and steam away to the Caribbean.

On the negative side, this is just one more addition to the avalanche of essentially uncontrolled tourism that threatens the character and function of the region. (My modest proposal is to swap the Carnival operation for the new one in Mt. Pleasant. The two cities could split the impacts and the tourists 50/50.)

Good news for the Charleston residents west of the Ashley! The city council has approved a contract for a revitalization plan for the area, after rejecting essentially the same proposal last week. Council member Bill Moody still believes it is a waste of money, for reasons he did not enumerate, while Council member Keith Waring is concerned the city’s planning director, Josh Martin, acted improperly in negotiating the contract, for reasons he also failed to explain. Like they say, we couldn’t make this stuff up. But good for the rest of the council, and good for the History Charleston Foundation for agreeing to cover 10% of the cost!

The state Conservation Bank is one of the most efficient, successful government programs in our state’s history. Since its creation in 2002, the Bank’s modest stream of revenue has protected more than 200,000 acres, at a cost to the state of approximately $300 per acre. Under the theme that no good deed goes unpunished, its existence is in jeopardy (again) this year. As this article from the Post and Courier reports, the Bank faces extinction if it is not reauthorized this session.

Senator Chip Campsen, the author of the original Conservation Bank bill in 2001, has introduced legislation to make it permanent. Now would be a good time to contact your House member and let him or her know you support full funding for the Bank, permanently.

Finally, the learned James Rembert has explained what the phrase “the exception that proves the rule” means. In response to a question in my e-mail from last week, he writes:

Here “prove” is used in one of its valid meanings, to “test” to determine
the acceptability of a rule which is often accepted without a challenge.

i.e., the exception that tests the rule, or accepted principle

So if I said, “No one ever sends helpful grammatical feedback to my weekly e-mails,” James Rembert would be the exception that (who?) proves the rule.

Have a wonderful week with, ideally, more seasonally appropriate weather!


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