Environmental group hits Kiawah Developer's plan to build on on Cpt. Sam's Spit

KIAWAH ISLAND, SC - Captain Sam's Spit is known for its pristine views and the wild life that call the narrow strip of land home.

"There are a lot of species... that really depend on that property," Katie Zimmerman said,

Captain Sam's Spit is a popular destination for people all over the world. The spit of land is located three quarters of a mile from some parts of Kiawah Island. There is a project underway that would build 50 homes on Captain Sam's Spit, which has environmental groups fuming.

"Captain Sam's Spit is probably the most inappropriate place for development that you could think of," Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman works for the Coastal Conservation League, an environmental group that wants to see Captain Sam's Spit designated as a park.

The League has taken Kiawah Partners, the real estate developers, to court.

"It's an unsafe place for development," she said.

Zimmerman and her coworkers are fighting the project, even though the Town of Kiawah gave it the go ahead ten years ago.

The environmental group argues the 180 acres of land is unstable for homes and roads because the coastline is eroding.

The developers disagree.

"I don't see where their criticism is coming from," Towsend Clarkson said. "I think it's unfounded."

Clarkson is the Chief Operating Officer for Kiawah Partners, the group that plans to build on Captain Sam's Spit.

He says the beach side of Captain Sam's Spit is gaining land, not losing it.

"Captain Sam's Spit is the most stable, or one of the most stable parts of Kiawah Island," he said.

Clarkson's group is planning to develop 20 acres, and leaving the 160 remaining acres as they are.

"We've been at it for seven years now and we will start development as soon as possible," he said Thursday.

Both Clarkson's and Zimmerman's groups have been lobbying lawmakers to establish a permanent baseline, which would ban anything from being built close to shore, from Hilton Head to Myrtle Beach.

Their disagreement is when the baseline should take effect.

The Coastal Conservation League wants the baseline to take effect this year.

Clarkson's group wants the baseline to take effect in 2017 or 2021.

"They wanted to get more time for accretion to take place," Sen. Paul Campbell said.

Sen. Campbell pushed for the baseline in 2017, something the League criticized the Berkeley County Senator for doing.

"Unfortunately, some legislators added an amendment that would benefit the Kiawah developer," Zimmerman said.

"I am not opposing the environmental committee as much as people want to say I am… They want to cast me as the bad guy in many cases, but I'm in the middle," Sen. Campbell said.

Because lawmakers have not been able to agree on a date for the baseline, the bill has stalled for this session and won't be taken up until next year.

State regulators approved a new permit that would allow the project on Captain Sam's Spit to continue.

The Coastal Conservation League just filed papers to appeal that permit.

Both sides say if DHEC doesn't rule against the permit, there will likely be another court battle.