Kiawah River Plantation plan moves forward, but next steps unclear
The Beach Co.’s controversial plan to sidestep resistance to its Kiawah River Plantation development has moved forward.
But Charleston County Clerk of Court Julie Armstrong said she doesn’t yet know specifically what its next steps will be.
Armstrong last week approved the company’s petition to launch a new Public Service District, which would provide sewer and fire service to its proposed, high-end Kiawah River Plantation development on the southern end of Johns Island.
Public service districts provide such services as sewer and fire protection and trash collection and disposal to residents of unincorporated parts of the county.
Forming new districts is not common. The last one formed in Charleston County was the North Charleston Sewer District in 1972.
Under state law, after the clerk of court approves a petition, the clerk calls an election of qualified voters in the district.
That shouldn’t be difficult in the case of Kiawah River. The district would include only the Beach Co.’s 2,000-acre property, which currently has only one resident, according to the company.
Armstrong, in an email to The Post and Courier, said she is working with the county’s legal department and the Board of Elections and Voter Registration to figure out the next steps.
The Beach Co. raised the ire of some local officials and Johns Island residents this year when it proposed a controversial financing proposal, known as a tax-increment financing district, or TIF, to pay for improvements to the property.
The plan would use future tax revenue that the development would generate to make improvements to the property, including building a sewage treatment facility.
Company officials have said they still hope to establish the TIF, even if the Public Service District is approved.
Conservationists also raised concerns about the sewer facility, saying it could spur development in the largely rural part of the island, and harm the environment if it malfunctioned.
In its plan to create a Public Service District, the Beach Co. found a creative way to move forward with the proposed development of about 1,200 high-end homes, a hotel and golf course.
Beach Co. attorney Chip McQueeney said he hoped the election to launch the new district would be held this year or early next year.
Another lawyer working for the company is completing paperwork to file with the U.S. Justice department to comply with a requirement in the Voting Rights Act. That’s another important part of the election process, he said. He also said the federal approval process takes about 60 days once the paperwork has been filed.
McQueeney said only one person now lives on the Kiawah River property, and that person is a tenant of the Beach Co. He said he did not know who that individual was.
Kevin O’Neill, vice president of development for the company’s subsidiary Beach Development, said he could not release the name of the tenant.