Editorial Roundup: South Carolina

(Charleston) Post and Courier. June 13, 2021.

Editorial: The court has spoken. Now it’s time to conserve Captain Sam’s Spit for all of us forever

The owners of the southernmost parcel on Kiawah Island, known by most as Captain Sam’s Spit, have been seeking permission for more than a decade to develop it as luxury homesites.

During that time, Charleston County has been brushed by several hurricanes, flooding has become a dominant regional challenge, and most of us have come to accept the reality that our world is warming and our seas are rising at a dangerous pace, even if we still disagree on why and what we should do about it.

Also, the teardrop-shaped spit has become even more tentatively attached to the larger island, after storms already severed the link three times.

That’s why we were encouraged by the South Carolina Supreme Court’s recent ruling that the state Department of Health and Environmental Control erred when it issued permits for a 2,380-foot steel wall along the narrow neck.

Kudos to Amy Armstrong of the S.C. Environmental Law Project for leading the legal fight on behalf of the state’s conservation community, including the Coastal Conservation League.

In short, the court found that the proposed wall needs to be scrutinized because of its potential effect on what’s known as the “critical area,” which includes coastal water, tidelands, beaches and dunes — even though it would be built on property upland of that regulated part of the coast.

“Because the certification requires construction of the steel wall to occur upland of the critical area, it was ostensibly not necessary for KDP (Kiawah Development Partners) to seek a special permit or for its application to undergo rigorous analysis. However, this interpretation is misleading, and is actually similar to the steel wall itself — initially it may be obscured, but once the sand shifts, it will become visible and ultimately replace the sandy beach,” Justice Kaye Hearn wrote in the ruling. “All the expert testimony confirmed the erosion would continue until the wall became exposed — otherwise there would be no need for an erosion control device.”

On two previous occasions, the state’s Administrative Law Court granted permits over DHEC’s objections. Both times, the Supreme Court overruled the lower court.

After the developers’ third strike before the state’s highest court, it’s time for all this legal back-and-forth to stop and talks to begin about placing this fragile and beautiful piece of land in a state of conservation for the enjoyment and benefit of all of us.

Of course, we realize why the developers still are trying: The question of whether 50 homes can be built there will shape the developers’ return on their investment.

Kiawah Development Partners owns the property landward of the mean high water mark, but the beach itself belongs to the public, and the state shouldn’t allow any development that cuts off the public’s access to the beach — as this inevitably would.

Nor should taxpayers have to foot the bill for state and federal disaster relief when a catastrophic storm assaults the rapidly eroding isthmus, as it inevitably will.

While the spit has been accreting on its southwestern end, its neck has been whittled away and could be cut from the rest of the island in a storm, maybe even this year or next.

As the reality of rising seas becomes more clear, we’re debating how best to respond — shifting our sources of energy, fortifying our cities and more. But the most obvious step we can take is to not build in our most vulnerable places.

The future of Captain Sam’s is intertwined with that of Beachwalker Park next door; they have the same owners. In 1976, the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission signed a 99-year lease with the developer. The county doesn’t pay rent but covered the cost to build and maintain its parking lot, boardwalk, restrooms and showers.

The park — the closest accessible public beach for rapidly expanding Johns Island — is so popular that its 200-plus parking spaces often fill up shortly after it opens on weekends.

While that lease is good for another 55 years, the park could be developed after that.

We would encourage state and county leaders, Kiawah Island Town Council and the conservation community to work toward placing all this land in public hands.

As the court noted, it’s one of South Carolina’s three remaining pristine sandy beaches (the others being Hunting Island and Huntington Beach state parks).

As South Carolina grows, we should have more, not less, access to pristine beaches, and allowing development on Captain Sam’s Spit would be the ultimate example of sacrificing a public resource to maximize private gain.

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(Orangeburg) Times and Democrat. June 13, 2021.

Editorial: S.C. in need of a return to workplace

The Times and Democrat in conjunction with the Morning News of Florence reported extensively a week ago on the number of unfilled jobs in the state and the reason for the worker shortage.

Some, including Gov. Henry McMaster, contend the primary reason people are not working is the level of government benefits made available during the pandemic. In other words, with federal pandemic-related money added to state unemployment benefits, a lot of people are making more not working than they could by returning to the workforce.

McMaster by the end of June is ending six federal unemployment benefit programs in the state, including providing $300 a week extra to many. State unemployment benefits will remain, but those getting payments must be actively seeking work and show they are via proof of contact with employers.

Critics say many badly need the extra benefits. They point out that people with children have been forced to stay home with them with schools and daycares closed. They say the dangers of the coronavirus for some have been much greater than for others. And they rightly argue that the level of payment to people in some jobs has made it such that the choice between receiving government payments or heading back to work while paying for child care etc. was a no-brainer in favor of the benefits.

But with the increasing level of vaccination and a wholesale return to “normal” as the pandemic fades, it is indeed time to put aside the extra unemployment benefits and get the state back to work.

Things will not be the same altogether. Businesses from industry to restaurants in some cases have learned to operate differently, meaning job roles have changed. In other instances, businesses have adapted to operating with fewer people. So there is no guarantee that when the presently unemployed get aggressive in looking for work they’ll find as many jobs available as expected.

But given that South Carolina presently reports more than 85,000 jobs available, there should be solid opportunities. And some will come with better pay than prepandemic as well as bonuses, plus a chance for training that could lead to career opportunities.

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(Greenwood) Index-Journal. June 12, 2021.

Editorial: Stay in your lane, but finish together

We won’t wander into the weeds on this one, but we do hope that there are no fender benders or crashes on the highway that leads to Greenwood County’s growth and economic development.

In the weeks and months since the dissolution of Greenwood Partnership Alliance, the public-private organization tasked with recruiting new business and industry to the county, various groups and individuals have gotten together to develop a new strategy toward a shared goal of bettering the county. That includes everything from economic development to quality of life issues and broad marketing of the county as a great place to work, live, prosper and receive a good education.

This collaborative effort brought to the table county leadership, Greenwood SC Chamber, Uptown Development Corp. and Discover Greenwood. As those involved often say, each has its own lane on a four-lane highway, its own particular area of expertise brought to the table in forming Greenwood Together.

As Greenwood Together formed, a holdover from the Partnership Alliance paused, switched gears and renamed itself. Kay Self had headed GPA’s supporting nonprofit arm, Foundation for a Greater Greenwood County, which worked on grant-driven and charitable community and workforce development projects. It has since been rebranded as Vision Greenwood, with Self remaining as executive director, and is now concentrating its efforts on community development and quality of place issues.

There very well might be some confusion, not only among those involved, but also among residents who are not so deeply involved in such matters. Is it a four-lane highway? Does Vision Greenwood create a fifth lane? Or is it a parallel road?

The dissolution of Greenwood Partnership Alliance did not come about without some pain, some hurt feelings, likely some animosity among key players and personalities. That’s understandable.

With that said, however, our hope is that all these drivers will find a way to be courteous, avoid road rage and determine that all hitting the finish line together beats the fool out of a demolition derby.

With a shared vision, Greenwood County can grow, flourish and succeed. Together.

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