March 1, 2019
From the Desk of the Mayor
Welcome to March and closer to real beach season! Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!
As we get into Spring, we all can enjoy more outdoor activity including gardening, yardwork, boating, fishing, swimming, surfing, kayaking, etc. I join Public Safety to ask that you take precautions to remain safe and healthy for the season to come.
Staff and I been asked questions about the lawsuit, by owners of beach front lots that have applied for septic tanks and other building permits, that the City Council elected to join as a plaintiff. In the next two paragraphs we, (staff and I), will try to briefly explain.
The City is interested in protecting the beach for the public, and we’re exploring every angle available. As part of this effort, the City is joining several residents and environmental groups to seek a court declaration regarding the ownership status of eroded beach property. This isn’t a monetary damages lawsuit (alleging someone did something wrong and caused harm), it’s a “Declaratory Judgment” action seeking legal clarity on an area of the law that isn’t commonly used by municipalities.
We usually think of the SC Beach Management Act, which sets the Folly Baseline, as the only law governing beaches. But there is also the common law doctrine of “Public Trust,” which comes from the state constitution. The Public Trust doctrine relates to property rights of parcels adjacent to the water, and exists separately from the state’s jurisdictional lines in statutes. The Public Trust doctrine looks at the Mean High Water Line and acknowledges that erosion and accretion of beach can change property lines. We are specifically asking the courts to determine whether renourishment is an “avulsive” event and whether land subject to an avulsion (pulling or tearing away) like renourishment falls within the Public Trust doctrine.
On other things happening around the beach; Marsh and Beach front setbacks seem to be hot buttons right now. While there has been many meetings and public hearings, these items will appear on the March agenda for the first reading vote. Stay tuned; and let your Council know how you feel on these matters. We will need this type of forward thinking to protect our beautiful Island and our water-based environment.
As always if you have any questions please contact me at email@example.com or (843) 729 0298.