The recent article about a homeowner on Folly Island wanting to build more seawalls on the public beach raises a more important question than whether that should be allowed.
The present high-tide line on that area of Folly Island is about the same as it was in the early 1985 (before Hugo in 1989). This readily obtainable piece of public information makes reasonable people wonder why such a house was built or why someone would buy it.
The Corps of Engineers, prior to the 1992-1993 beach renourishment (known in legal documents as the Folly Beach Shore Protection Project), promised in a public meeting that there would never be any building allowed on the lots seaward of the lots fronting East Ashley Avenue. To this end, the Corps obtained, by deed, perpetual easements from those lot owners. The purpose of the easements was to give the City of Folly Beach the right to “operate and maintain a public beach” on the property.
The easements provided that “no existing structures may be modified nor shall any additional structure be constructed on the land except for” a dune walkway.
Simply put, the lots are to be used in perpetuity for public beach and dunes. The City of Folly Beach contracted with the Corps, as a condition of the renourishment, to enforce these easements. Some lot owners who had signed the perpetual easements even quit paying property taxes because the lots were no longer of value to them.
There are 14 houses east of the Washout that the city allowed to be built (all since the post-Hugo renourishment) on what is really public beach. They presently create impediments to the public’s using and walking on the beach.
Rather than trying to find out why the City of Folly Beach failed to exercise its fiduciary and contractual obligations, it would be more beneficial to focus on finding out how these 14 obstructions can be removed from the beach. Surely the City of Folly Beach will not be allowed any more federal tax dollars for renourishment until the city makes good on its previous promises.
Is it too much to ask of DHEC’s Ocean and Coastal Resource Management office, the Army Corps of Engineers, the real estate brokers and closing agents, and the title insurance companies for these 14 houses to devise a plan to return the public beach to the public?
These houses, along with their seawalls, rocks, boulders, sandbags, septic tanks, and other debris, should be removed immediately from the beach.
East Ashley Avenue