South Carolina Beach Advocates host annual conference on Isle of Palms

South Carolina Beach Advocates gathered on Isle of Palms for an annual meeting on Monday.
Published: Jan. 30, 2023 at 3:30 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 30, 2023 at 11:00 PM EST
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ISLE OF PALMS, S.C. (WCSC) - South Carolina Beach Advocates gathered on Isle of Palms for an annual meeting on Monday.

Local mayors, state representatives and the Army Corps of Engineers were in attendance.

Rep. Nancy Mace gave the keynote address. Mace recently wrote an amendment to a bill prohibiting offshore drilling along the South Carolina coast until 2032. This is a continuation of the previous administration’s work Mace supports.

“We had almost every single member of congress on both sides of the aisle vote for that amendment. It was a huge win for South Carolina,” Mace said.

Mace reiterated to the crowd how hard she and others work at the national level to secure funding for flooding projects, stormwater drainage projects, beach renourishment projects and more.

“We have a multi-billion-dollar tourist industry and people come here for clean water, clean air, and clean beaches and we want to keep it that way. It is the backbone of our economy,” she said.

Representatives from the Coastal Science & Engineering gave a presentation about beach nourishment and flood mitigation. It included lessons from Hurricane Ian’s impacts to South Carolina Beaches. The presentation delved into how the nourished beaches with higher dunes and wider berms offered the best protection against hurricane force winds and rain.

Folly Beach Mayor Tim Goodwin moderated a 2023 legislative session update and outlook for state beaches.

Senator George E. “Chip” Campsen III from District 43 talked about Bill 282 he presented.  It moves an unused beach trust fund setup under the rule of South Carolina Parks Recreation and Tourism.  Campsen proposes that 25% of existing admissions tax general services go into the fund, and projects it would generate about $8 million a year.  Admissions taxes are the 5% state tax on tickets for amusement like golf and movies. Campsen also wants to see fees from real estate transfers go into the fund.

“I want to reinstate that because there is a nexus or relationship between the increase in real estate transfer fees and the need to do conservation. The more development the more conservation you want to do,” Campsen said.

Representative Elizabeth ‘Spencer’ Wetmore from District 115 says she wants to bring back Coastal Access Grants that haven’t been available in recent years.

“I know very well firsthand how expensive it is to maintain ADA access, parking lots, restroom facilities at your beach access and how much work goes into that,” Wetmore said.

There are ongoing discussions over a bill at the state level right now about restricting versus protecting short term rentals, but most legislators agree there needs to be more monetary benefits for the beach towns.  Representative Lee Hewitt from District 108 wrote the bill, protecting short term rentals.

“Some of the things we’re working on is working with the online rental companies, so they’ll start paying your local accommodations tax. They’ve agreed that they need to step up to the plate so hopefully we can get that in place soon, bringing them under regulations,” Hewitt said.

The Army Corps of Engineers also provided a South Atlantic District update and a Charleston District update as well.

Attendees will take a trip to Capers Island and continue to talk about conservation on Tuesday. Governor Henry McMaster will close the conference on Wednesday.