September Mayor's Message - Important Updates of City Projects
September 4, 2020
The past 6 months have been truly challenging as we continue to grapple with an ongoing pandemic that has dramatically changed the world we know. Things may not be back to normal for many months to come. Even in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, Council and staff are busier than ever with many projects underway!
The docks, including the fuel dock, hut and marine utility infrastructure, located along Morgan Creek are slated to be replaced this fall. The City is going through the Request for Proposals process to select a qualified contractor to perform this work, which is estimated to take approximately 5 months. The deadlines for submission of proposals is September 11, 2020 and we expect Council to award a contract by the end of this month and issue a notice to proceed by September 30, 2020.
As you know, after a competitive Request for Proposals process, City Council voted to enter exclusive negotiations with the IOP Families Investment Group for a new lease for the marina restaurant formerly occupied by Morgan Creek Grill. The IOP Families Investment Group is represented by island residents Jon & Bridget Bushnell and Dave & Chrissy Lorenz. After several extensions to the due diligence period, we are very close to the finish line. City Council engaged a real estate attorney from the Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd law firm, to develop a lease agreement for the use and complete renovation of the aged and dilapidated restaurant building. The prospective tenant plans to renovate the building and grounds starting this winter with hopes to open the outdoor area by late spring and then open the interior of the building in Summer 2021.
In April of last year, City Council voted to not automatically renew the existing watersports lease, currently held by Tidal Wave Watersports, after it expires on September 30, 2020. Council is in the process of determining the best use for that area; whether to continue to lease it for a commercial watersports operation or turn it into a public dock with greenspace and free resident parking spaces. If Council decides that it wants that dock and parking spaces to be leased for a private commercial operation, then the City would pursue the same competitive request for proposals process that it has historically followed before awarding a new lease at the marina.
The City of Isle of Palms has a very valuable asset in the City-owned marina and Council intends to maximize its potential for the benefit of all members of our community. We cannot successfully and objectively weigh all alternatives if encumbered by a five-year extension of this lease with the current watersports operator. This is a unique opportunity for the City to do something special at the marina which will stand as this Council’s legacy for years to come.
I understand that there are differing opinions and visions for the future use of this dock and that is okay. While it is normal and healthy to think differently, we need to be respectful and kind to each other and encourage dialogue instead of hostility when we encounter opinions and perspectives that are different from our own. Let’s all do our part to encourage unity, not divisiveness. I call on all members of our community to embrace the core values of kindness, community, civility, respect, and service.
It’s no secret that the social media frenzy at times gets out of control. Social media can be a powerful and engaging platform for bringing communities together, but it can also lead to depression, anxiety, and outrage. Don’t forget that behind the screen, we are all humans trying our best. Sometimes it’s good to log off social media, take a walk on the beach, and rejuvenate our minds and bodies!
Public Safety Building
This long-awaited project is nearing completion. The Design-Build team, made up of Trident Construction and Coast Architects, has done a phenomenal job rehabilitating the building that houses our Police and Fire Departments. The building renovation is expected to be completed this November. We cannot wait to welcome our police and fire heroes back into an improved building!
We all know that during the beach season the influx of daily beach goers significantly stresses the City’s resources and personnel. Our Police department sees an increase of 51% in calls for service between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Our Fire department sees an increase in calls for service of 75% during that same time period. The cost of beach garbage collection services also increases significantly during the summer. The City of Isle of Palms is one of the few beaches in the state that provides garbage and recycling collection services on both the street side and beach side along all 57 beach access paths. The City also collects miscellaneous debris, mainly chairs and tents, left on the beach during the summer. We do this to provide a safe and a clean beach environment which benefits us all, so that we may enjoy this piece of paradise everyone loves.
The City of Isle of Palms cannot grow like our neighboring communities, and therefore, we have limited opportunities to raise revenues to offset the increasing costs required to maintain the City and meet the growing demand for services.
For this reason, last month City Council approved a plan to implement paid parking on the existing public beach parking areas. These areas include all parking located on Palm Boulevard, the Avenues between 3rd and 9th, and Breach Inlet. The new paid parking plan would start next year. The current plan includes charging an hourly fee of $2.50 from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. between March 1st and October 31st. Vehicles with a valid residential parking decal may park along these areas at no extra cost. The City Isle of Palms has 8 times as many public access points and approximately 7.5 times the minimum required number of public parking spaces to provide full and complete public access.
The City is also working with CARTA on the development of a beach shuttle with a park and ride location in Mount Pleasant. The shuttle will run between 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and have multiple stops on the Isle of Palms. Click here to learn more about the IOP Beach Shuttle.
We have already experienced an extremely active hurricane season this year. It is a humbling reminder to get prepared ahead of time for the likely scenario of a named storm impacting our shores once again before the season is over. Make an emergency plan for your family, prepare an emergency supply kit, check your insurance policies and plan your evacuation route now and don’t wait until the storm comes!
If you have a hurricane re-entry pass, you may have noticed that it expired in January 2020. These passes allowed access to the island if the City find it necessary to limit access to all of, or portions of, the island after a storm based on the extent of damage. The City will not re-issue these passes and will instead use the City issued Residential Parking Decals and Wild Dunes Owners stickers as proof of residency. Residents may apply for the Residential Parking Decal online at www.iop.net. The Police Department will issue special hurricane season passes to Dewees Island and Goat Island residents, and the owners and managers of island businesses. Please contact the department at 843-886-6522 for more information.
The wonderful and hardworking crew of the Recreation Department are busy planning for a memorable and different Halloween celebration on Saturday, October 31st from 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. The City will host a Halloween Golf Cart Parade and Drive Through Haunted House! The Golf Cart Parade will offer an opportunity for residents to decorate golf carts and compete for prizes. Get your golf carts ready for a new and exciting Halloween experience! To participate, golf carts must be registered with the Rec Department. Registration will begin on Monday, October 5th. As a reminder, according to state law, golf cart owners must have a permit from the DMV and proof of insurance to drive a golf cart on the road. “Just Beachy Golf Cart Rentals” and “IOP Cart Rentals” have agreed to offer a discount for cart rentals should a family need one. More info on www.iop.net
August Mayor's Message
August 7, 2020
Dear Island Residents,
Wow, what a year 2020 has been! I must apologize to those council members I encouraged to run. Never in my 8 and a half years of service have I seen as many challenges in such a short time as those we have encountered this year.
Speaking of challenges, the marina is another challenge. Exciting news though, we are in the process of signing a lease with a group that everyone loves. We are excited about having them in place soon and opening the restaurant next spring. Soon we will be enjoying eating and drinking at one of the most beautiful locations on the Isle of Palms. The city bought this property in 1999 through a public referendum with an overwhelming vote in favor to buy it to preserve public access to the water. We, the residents, wanted to have water access and not lose it to developers. Now it is this council’s turn to get it right. Whatever we do, it will be our legacy and it will be done by putting our residents first.
This year, we have also been working on the improvements to the Public Safety building that was built in 2008. The City approved funds to repair some significant deficiencies and we are excited to be coming in under budget and ahead of schedule with this important project. Weather permitting, the project should be completed by November 2020. I cannot wait for our public safety personnel to be back in their offices.
Another recently completed project is the sidewalk that connects the shoulder of the IOP Connector with the sidewalk along Palm Boulevard. The Transportation Sales Tax (TST) funds paid for the construction of this project which also improved and beautified the Leola Hanbury Memorial Park. The new pathway looks great and the lighting up into the grand oak at night is beautiful. This project safely separates the pedestrian and vehicular traffic coming off the IOP Connector. I’ve seen lots of people using and enjoying this new amenity!
One of our hot topics continues to be drainage and flooding. Well, we have budgeted 3.2 million for improvements to 3 of the City’s major drainage outfalls, located at 41st, 36th, and 30th.Avenues. As part of this project, we are also looking at improvements to the multipurpose path along Waterway Boulevard. The goal is to improve and elevate it so that it may provide more protection from flooding. The FY21 budget contains a half a million to do other smaller projects around the island based on need. One day, we will need to tackle the whole island, not just these little projects.
Adding to these critical challenges is the COVID-19 pandemic, which began in March, and has certainly been disruptive and unprecedented. Council’s last in person meeting was in February and every council and committee meeting has been held virtually via zoom and live-streamed on YouTube. The community has been more engaged than ever; these meetings have exceeded 600 concurrent viewers at times. Thanks to everyone for embracing the technology and adapting with us as we adapt to this new reality brought by the pandemic.
When Charleston became the third COVID-19 hotspot in the world, I participated in several meetings with the Mayors of our neighboring communities and other beach towns. All of which were extremely worried about the continuous upward trend of COVID-19 positive test results in our region and all agreed that more needed to be done to try to flatten the curve and reduce the increase of new cases. I called an Emergency Meeting of Council on Wednesday, July 15th, to discuss what emergency measures we could take to do our part at reducing the overcrowding of people in our community and our beach. At that meeting, Council voted to restrict parking temporarily for 30 days to help avoid crowds and ensure social distancing on the beach. These restrictions expire on Sunday, August 16, 2020 and on Thursday, August 13, Council will have another Special Meeting to review and discuss these emergency measures. The City’s priority is to protect the health and safety of those who live on the Isle of Palms and all that visit our beach.
As if a global pandemic was not enough to help keep everyone on their toes, we had the threat of a Cat 1 Hurricane. Thankfully, the storm stayed offshore and didn’t bring damage to our City. It was a good trial run for our staff that now needs to prepare and respond to storms during a pandemic. After seeing the actions of our employees firsthand, I am proud to say the City of Isle of Palms is ready to respond to any current or future storm.
Unfortunately, we have had to cancel a lot of public events, but we do so out of an overabundance of caution. Our city employees, in every department, continue to go above and beyond the call of duty during this pandemic. If you see a public works employee, a recreation department employee, a police officer, fire personnel, or any other member of city staff; Please thank them and thank your city council for doing what they feel is best for our residents.
It is my honor to serve as your Mayor,
Staying Laser Focused on our Goals
February 20, 2020
The Isle of Palms City Council has a full plate for 2020. As we have been discussing for years, and planning for months, we are set to start our Public Safety Building renovation in March. We have 5 mobile office trailers to house both the Police and Fire Department Headquarters. We have begun the relocation process and hooking the trailers to the utilities, cable, and such. The City's new 75' ladder truck will be delivered in the coming weeks plus our newly refurbished 95' ladder truck is in the final stages of completion. In addition, we continue to work with Thomas and Hutton on the final design and state and federal permitting process for the improvements to the 3 drainage outfalls located at the end of 30th, 36th and 41st Avenue. The construction of the drainage project is estimated at $2.9M.
The City is also waiting on the final set of permits for the IOP Marina dock rehabilitation project. The docks along Morgan Creek have exceeded the end of their useful life and need to be replaced. The City is working with Applied Technology Management who is developing the final drawings and specifications for the project. Once the US Army Corps of Engineers issues the final permit, the City will be able to complete the bid documents to competitively procure the construction of the repairs. The project will also include needed maintenance on the bulkhead. The goal is for construction to start after Labor Day. The construction of this project is estimated at $3.2M.
Last month, the City held a public workshop to gather feedback about the community's vision for the IOP Marina. We had a packed house and due to the fire code, we could not fit in the room everyone who wanted to participate. However, lots of folks submitted a written form at the meeting, and many others provided feedback via an online form available on the City's website www.iop.net. The City is working on compiling the results of the public comments, the written comments and the online questionnaires. It's not too late to go to www.iop.net and look under latest news at the top and fill out the questionnaire on what you, our residents, envision at the marina. The City wants what our residents want, it is not about any one council members' vision, but what our residents want.
The City is also going through a due diligence period for the restaurant lease. We feel confident we will be moving forward with something that will best suit our residents desire for a waterside dining spot.
This month, the City held the first budgeting workshop to discuss our goals for the next budget year and prioritize among the projects and needs the city is faced with in the next coming years. It is clear drainage remains at the top of the list. There were preliminary discussions about the possibility of pursuing a larger island wide drainage project. We know this is a priority for our community and we need to determine how to best approach it and how it will be funded. Other discussions included the rehabilitation of the Waterway Boulevard multi use path, and the future maintenance of the City-owned portion of Ocean Boulevard between 10th and 14th Avenue. There are all kinds of wish list items that some would like to have, but we need to take care of our needs first. Equally important to me, is that we ensure that we take care of our City family. It is getting tougher and tougher to compete with the growth of neighboring cities and their need for experienced and professional employees. We, as a City, need to constantly understand that the cost of living in our area is higher than the national average and is always going up. Most of our employees must travel significant distances to get to work and this travel is both time consuming and expensive. Our employees are the best. They are professionals that are committed to serving our community and we need to let them know that we support them and their needs.
The City needs to stay laser focused on all these important projects that will enhance and protect our quality of life, and on retaining our highly skilled and experienced personnel. We have the lowest tax millage around, and the City has not raised taxes for a number of years because we have always remained fiscally conservative. However, there comes a time when we need to increase revenues to pursue important projects and ensure the same level of service for our community.
Thank you for allowing me to serve as your Mayor and thank you for electing a great City Council.
Happy New Year!
January 15, 2020
The Isle of Palms City Council welcomed three new members earlier this month. Phillip Pounds, Kevin Popson and Rusty Streetman were sworn-in along Jimmy Ward who was reelected to serve on City Council. The City is lucky to have residents who want to volunteer their time to serve our great community. We have many challenges ahead of us and I am proud of the team the City has in place and happy with the direction the City is going.
New laws went into effect on the Isle of Palms as soon as the clock stroke midnight. We are proud to start a new decade as a plastic and smoke free beach! The Isle of Palms is our little piece of paradise and we all want to do everything we can to protect it and preserve it for generations to come.
Smoking cigarettes, cigars, pipes or other smoking devices used for the purpose of inhaling and exhaling smoke, such as vaping devices, is prohibited on the Isle of Palms beach and beach access paths. Also, citizens will no longer be able to bring and use single-use plastic bags, plastic straws, Polystyrene (Styrofoam) food containers, cups and balloons on the Isle of Palms beach. These regulations are aimed at improving our environment by reducing litter and encouraging the use of reusable, recyclable and compostable products. Plastic and foam products filter into our waterways and the ocean, where they are harmful to marine life. The City's goal is not to be punitive but encourage and ensure a cleaner, safer, healthier and more enjoyable environment for people, wildlife and marine life.
On Thursday, January 30th, the City will hold a community marina workshop at the Recreation Center to gather feedback from the community about their vision for the Isle of Palms Marina. City Council views the implementation of the community's vision for the marina as part of our legacy and something the island's residents will be proud of and enjoy for years to come. The community workshop will be collaborative session where participants will be assigned to work groups gathered at round tables with a facilitator who will record feedback and ideas. This structure of meeting will allow everyone who attends to be equally heard and share their vision. The workshop will begin at 5:30 p.m. at the Recreation Center. If you are unable to attend, you may still share your vision by filling out this form.
As you know, the existing marina restaurant lease expires later this year. After following the request for proposal process, last month City Council voted to enter exclusive negotiations with the IOP Families Group (Lorenz's & Bushnell's) for a new lease and begin a 90-day due diligence period. Their vision for a family friendly restaurant offering modern casual dining resonated with the community and with City Council.
If you haven't already, please apply for the 2020 Resident Parking Permit. This permit will allow you to legally park your vehicle along the public right of way in the Residential Parking District from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Residents and property owners may apply online at here or at the Public Safety Building located at 30 J C Long Boulevard. The new regulations state that vehicles must parallel park at least 4 feet off the pavement when parking in the public right-of-way along Palm Boulevard between 41st and 53rd Avenue.
Keep up with official City businesses by vising the City's website at www.iop.net and the official Facebook and Twitter accounts.