Vote on whether to incorporate James Island is Tuesday
James Island voters return to the polls Tuesday to see if a fourth attempt at forming a town will finally succeed.
A simple majority among the area’s 8,618 registered voters who turn out is all it takes to approve the incorporation.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Here is a brief look at some of the issues:
James Island town advocate Donald Hollingsworth says voters should support incorporation if they want to keep the notion that local is good.
For starters, residents of a new town of James Island will continue to get their trash and yard waste picked up twice a week.
“We will be self-reliant,” said Hollingsworth, chairman of the James Island Public Service Commission, which provides garbage service, sewer and fire protection.
Local is better than being run by a government “that has no interests over here but is making the decisions for us,” he added.
A poll last summer found that 81 percent supported the town. Only 10 percent said it was time to give up.
The major difference this time is that the region to be incorporated is smaller and more compact than previous, down to about 11,000 residents, or two-thirds as many residents as before.
Shrinking the boundaries meant excluding neighborhoods such as Riverland Terrace, Sol Legare and the Grimball Road area, to curtail legal questions about contiguity. The city of Charleston’s previous lawsuits successfully questioned whether the town was a geographic whole as required by state law, or an unwieldy patchwork.
Perhaps the biggest public policy debate in the buildup to Tuesday has been over police protection, with supporters saying the town does not intend to create its own law enforcement agency.
City of Charleston officials contend other Charleston County taxpayers can rightfully protest about the fairness of a municipality not having to pay for its own agency. The Sheriff’s Department, however, said creating another police force in the county is not necessary and their deputies will continue patrols as they are now
Town advocates also say they will provide local planning and zoning, building permits, and collect the revenue portion of the local-option sales tax.
For all the hype heading into Tuesday’s James Island incorporation vote, there are still several hundred residents that want no part of it.
Charleston city officials report that about 243 property owners have asked to be annexed into Charleston since the third town of James Island was nullified last year by the S.C. Supreme Court.
About one-third of them have asked to become part of the city of Charleston since February, around the time this fourth pro-James Island incorporation effort ramped-up.
Tim Keane, director of Charleston’s Department of Planning, Preservation and Sustainability, said a common theme from those looking to annex into Charleston on the fly is the fear of what a town of James Island would actually offer.
That’s especially true, he said, since earlier versions have operated on the notion to not provide a lot of services.
He listed police, recreation, parks, fixing roads — “everything that a city does,” which will have to be provided by someone else at an uncertain price.
Earlier this year, Charleston officials issued a warning on the costs of operating a small government, noting the limits of having mainly a homeowner property tax base.
“The math still demonstrates the true cost of running the town will be substantial, and in a jurisdiction without a single grocery store, department store, hotel or major industrial operation to help shoulder the tax burden,” the city said.
The offshoot is residents “inevitably will see a tax bill to meet the costs of essential services that real towns provide,” the city’s message said.
Keane said he’s heard a lot of talk that the town of James Island is being formed under the mantle of local “patriotism.” But he added that umbrella may not be what everyone wants, as many residents face the likelihood of being dragged into the new town against their will. That’s because once the town’s boundaries are set, property owners may never get out again.