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Sullivan’s Island moves forward with adjusted plan for maritime forest

Updated: Mar. 18, 2021 at 11:20 PM EDT
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SULLIVAN’S ISLAND, S.C. (WCSC) - Sullivan’s Island town leaders have adjusted a plan that would specify what will be chopped from the town’s maritime forest.

After a decade long battle with a group of oceanfront homeowners, the town entered a settlement agreement in October 2020 to allow some vegetation to be removed.

During a town council meeting on Tuesday, council members voted 4-2 on an adjusted plan after they found out a lot of the land is considered wetlands.

Mayor Pat O’Neil, who voted against the original settlement and the adjusted plan, said the re-worked plan is more specific and could give it a better chance for a permit from regulatory agencies.

“The [original] settlement agreement would remove a tremendous amount of vegetation in that accreted land area, but it did not go into specifics about what the mechanisms are on how to implement that, how it would be done, and so on.” O’Neil said. “It also didn’t account that much of that land is considered wetlands in some ways and much of it is within the jurisdictional authority of the office of ocean and coastal resource management of DHEC. In the months since then the attorneys have been working with engineers to try and make the plan more doable.”

In the adjusted plan wax myrtle trees would be cut down to three feet, as opposed to original agreement where the trees would have been cut down to the ground.

For residents who have been opposed to the settlement since the beginning, they said the process has been frustrating.

“I have no idea why town and town council are so enthusiastic about entering a new deal with the plaintiffs to give them ocean views and breezes that puts the rest of public at extreme risk by removing vegetation that protects us,” resident Karen Byko said.

She pledged to continue her efforts in trying to preserve the forest.

We reached out to attorneys from Hood Law Firm who represent some the oceanfront homeowners involved in the settlement agreement.

“The work plan approved by Town Council on Tuesday reflects the on-going cooperation between the parties to fulfill the terms of the settlement. Our goal was to develop a work plan, in consultation with subject matter experts, that would achieve the goals set out in the settlement agreement in an environmentally sensitive manner. We believe the plan approved by the Town on Tuesday does just that,” Jamie Hood said in a statement.

The work plan will be submitted to the Army Corps of Engineers and the state health department’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management for review.

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