South Carolina Environmental Law Project

Lawyers for the Wild Side of South Carolina

Capt. Sam’s Spit wall given go ahead
November 9th, 2015

By Bo Petersen

KIAWAH ISLAND — A sea wall for a road to a planned development on Capt. Sam’s Spit can be built, a state administrative judge has ruled. In response, conservationists have filed an emergency appeal directly to the state Supreme Court.

The high court has ordered both the developers and conservationists to provide supporting arguments by Tuesday.

The decision by Chief Administrative Law Judge Ralph King Anderson III late last week would clear the way for Kiawah Partners to build a half-mile long, in-ground steel sheet pile wall along the roadway to support it. It’s an abrupt turn of events in one of a series of lawsuits now underway for the controversial 50-home development.

The spit is wildlife-rich, 150-acre teardrop of exposed dunes on Kiawah Island’s western edge. The homes would be built across 20 acres of high ground.

“Kiawah Partners is pleased that the (law court) granted its motion to lift the automatic stay,” spokesman Bill Hindman said in a release.

“The (administrative court decision) flies in the face of the Supreme Court’s 2014 ruling recognizing the development interests cannot outweigh the public’s interest in protection of South Carolina’s iconic landscapes,” Amy Armstrong of the South Carolina Environmental Law Project said in a prepared statement.

Last week’s ruling indicated that the narrow neck of the spit where the road is planned had eroded 12 feet with recent historic flooding and less than 6 feet are left to spare to build it.

The battle over development on the spit has now been waged for more than six years. Like other inlet areas, Capt. Sam’s is continually reshaped by waves and wind. Currently, it is eroding along the riverbank where the road is planned, while the beach across the neck is gaining sand.

The spit is prized for conservation and recreation because its cape beach is a feeding ground that, at times, draws seabirds by the thousands. Its inlet beaches are part of a rare strand-feeding ground, where dolphins drive schools of baitfish onto the beach and jump up after them to feed.

For Kiawah Partners, the spit is one of few remaining undeveloped beachfront properties left on the largely gated resort island. Company representatives have said that along with the development they would put 85 percent of the spit under conservation easement.

The state Supreme Court in December ruled against granting a permit for a seawall and revetment for the access road. The court returned the case to the administrative court.

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