James Island makes 4th pass at incorporation, says on website that 81% of residents back bid
That's the new website created by supporters of a fourth incorporation attempt for the town of James Island.
A poll on the site states that 81 percent of residents favor having a town, 10 percent want to give up the town and 9 percent are undecided. The site says 1,065 of the town's registered voters responded to an automated telephone poll.
The Free James Island website, which has a link from the town's homepage, lists James Island Mayor Bill Woolsey as webmaster.
Woolsey said 3 percent of those polled want to join the city of Charleston and 2 percent would prefer to be in unincorporated Charleston County. The site details the petitioning processes required to form the new town, and estimates 2,000 signatures will be needed. Two elections -- one to decide on incorporation, and a second one, if the first one is positive, to choose a mayor and council members -- would be needed, the site says, though Woolsey said on the website that they are investigating whether both elections can be done at once.
The cost of running the two elections separately is estimated at $18,500.
"We have broad support for another incorporation effort, and plenty of volunteers," Woolsey said Tuesday. He said Free James Island is a nonprofit organization created to help form a new town and to solicit volunteers and donations to fund the elections.
Woolsey is advancing the town's incorporation plans, but still holds a slim hope that the state Supreme Court will reverse its June ruling against the third incorporation of the town. The court ruled it was improper because it included Riverland Terrace area properties that didn't properly connect with the larger portion of the town.
"I'm sitting here with a straight edge trying to find a configuration for the new town that will meet a legal challenge," Woolsey said.
The town first incorporated in 1993, for a second time in 2002 and a third time in 2006. Each incorporation was challenged in court by the city of Charleston, and each time the city prevailed in the state Supreme Court. After the most recent ruling, June 20, the town filed a Petition for Rehearing, and Charleston's lawyers responded, James Island Town Attorney Trent Kernodle said.
"There's no telling how long the court will take to decide whether to rehear the case," Kernodle said.
Woolsey said the fourth version of the town (now with about 18,000 residents) would have to be smaller than the third in order to comply with the court's interpretation of contiguous properties.
"If the town is dissolved, I anticipate a reincorporation in a matter of months, certainly not in a matter of years," he said.
Woolsey urges town residents who are getting overtures to join the city of Charleston to reject them. The city can't legally annex properties in the town while the town still exists, and that would change only when and if the Supreme Court orders the Circuit Court to oversee a dissolution of the city, Woolsey said.
On the Free James Island site is a section called "Just Say No to Joe!" that advises residents to refuse Charleston Mayor Joe Riley's invitations to have their properties annexed by the city.
The page also tells town residents what they can do with Riley's offer: "Did you receive an annexation letter from Joe Riley?" the page says. "Bring it to James Island Town Hall and add to the rest in the recycle bin."
The website lists what it says are comparisons between water and sewer costs, and stormwater collection fees, for residents of the town, the unincorporated part of the county and the city of Charleston. The site notes that town residents receive water and sewer services and fire protection from the James Island Public Service District.
"So, if the Town of James Island is forced to close for a time, citizens of the Town will be in unincorporated Charleston County. There will be no change in water, sewer or storm sewer rates," the site states.
"The water bills will be the same -- the rates the City of Charleston charges to nonresidents. The sewer rates will be the same, the charges by the James Island P.S.D. And the storm sewer rates will be the same, going to the County exactly as before, though it won't say "Town of James Island" storm water utility on the property tax bill," the site says.
The site maintains that water rates for anyone leaving the PSD and joining the city will "skyrocket."