Riley says he wont challenge recent incorporation of town of James Island
In this case, the fourth try was the charm.
The town of James Island’s most recent incorporation won’t face a legal challenge from Charleston, Mayor Joe Riley said.
Riley wrote a letter Friday to Trent Kernodle, attorney for the town, saying the city believes a lawsuit against the incorporation would not be successful, so the city won’t file one.
For the town, the news marks a new era.
Three times since the 1990s, voters in the unincorporated part of James Island have formed a town, only to see Charleston challenge its legality and the S.C. Supreme Court dissolve it.
Island voters went to the polls this spring and approved creating a town for a fourth time.
“My issue with a town of James Island has never been personal,” Riley wrote to Kernodle. “I wish you the best in future endeavors.”
Former James Island Mayor Bill Woolsey, who also is running unopposed for mayor of the new town on July 31, said island residents are relieved that their conflict with the city is over.
“I feel tremendously relieved,” he said Friday. While he was confident that the town’s recent incorporation was valid, “there was just always a worry.”
“I spoke to Mayor Riley and expressed my hope that the town of James Island and the city of Charleston will be able to work together in the future,” he said.
“I don’t know how you can be tired and excited at the same time,” Kernodle said, adding that he reread the letter five times after receiving it.
“It’s been a 22-year struggle, and now that particular struggle is not there anymore. We’re just glad we can now move onto better things,” he said. “The only known foe that we had has decided not to challenge us.”
Riley wrote a separate letter to City Council explaining his decision more in-depth.
“I have also always believed that town of James Island will be very difficult to sustain financially when the real cost of providing municipal services is inevitably realized,” Riley wrote council members. “As a result we have been vigilant in our efforts to ensure a town of James Island incorporation be conducted in a manner that is legal.”
The town has relied on the James Island Public Service District and county government for most local services, such as fire and police protection, while local sales-tax income has allowed the town to pay for all its zoning, code enforcement and other operations without levying an additional property tax.
The new town will have about 11,000 residents, a little less than half of the sea island’s population. About 18,000 residents on the island are within the city of Charleston.
It’s not a surprise that Charleston’s attorneys believed the recent incorporation was done legally.
Last year’s S.C. Supreme Court’s ruling — the one that dissolved the town for a third time — advised town backers how they could proceed legally.
At issue primarily has been whether the proposed town was geographically contiguous, as the law requires.
In its recent incorporation, the town shrunk the proposed boundaries and left out neighborhoods such as Riverland Terrace to ensure contiguity.
“If you look at the map we used, it was the city’s exhibit at trial” that formed the basis of this year’s incorporation, Kernodle said. ”We streamlined it and made it as bullet-proof as we could possibly make it.”
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.