South Carolina Environmental Law Project

Lawyers for the Wild Side of South Carolina

Lawmakers OK change to help development on Kiawah Island
December 2nd, 2015

The Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. State lawmakers have approved a change to help developers who want to build expensive homes on Kiawah Island.

On Tuesday, a Senate subcommittee agreed to remove language from a bill that would have sharply reduced the chances of the development, local news outlets reported.

The full Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee approved the change later Tuesday, after delaying a vote on the previous version of the bill last spring. The full Senate is expected to have the bill on its calendar in January.

The bill, which was intended to stop new development projects from being built closer to the ocean, would have prevented state regulators from moving a building restriction line toward the ocean so that development could occur closer to the sea.

That line has, in the past, been moved toward the ocean after taxpayer-funded beach renourishment projects artificially widened the seashore.

At Kiawah Island, developers oppose freezing the building restriction line because they say the beach is building up naturally. They want the flexibility to have the line moved seaward to provide more room for the project.

Developers have been fighting environmentalists for 10 years in an effort to build expensive homes on a narrow strip of land.

Kiawah Development partners to build on Captain Sam's spit, an area of dunes between the ocean and a tidal marsh south of Charleston. The plan last year called for construction of 50 houses.

Critics said it's foolish to build on such a skinny stretch of land during climate change.

"This has broader implications for the coast of South Carolina," environmental lawyer Amy Armstrong said. "It is just not good policy to build closer to the ocean. It's not safe. It puts people and structures in harm's way."

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