Charleston County would accept Daniel Island with open arms, if residents vote to secede from Berkeley County, a Charleston official said Thursday.
“We’d be glad to accept them,” said Charleston County Council Chairman Teddie Pryor. “I think it would be a good fit for both us and Daniel Island.”
The Daniel Island Neighborhood Association and Daniel Island Property Owners Association have meet with legal counsel and are planning a joint information meeting with an announcement that “will be a very defining moment for the residents and future of Daniel Island,” according to a letter by DINA President Dave Willliams posted on social media.
Although the letter does not specifically mention the possibility of changing counties, several officials said that is what they expect the announcement to be, as the letter also says the groups are working to determine if Berkeley County is meeting the needs of the island’s 9,000 residents.
“This is based on a series of issues on Daniel Island, including but not limited to taxes, basic services, expanded services and school issues,” said Jane Baker, vice president of community services for the POA, which is administering the process on behalf of DINA at DINA’s request.
One of the major issues is taxes, she said. Their research shows the average homeowner would save about 25 percent in Charleston County. A website that will be unveiled after the meeting will include a calculator where homeowners can get individual estimates, she said.
Berkeley County Supervisor Dan Davis said he was surprised to hear about a secession effort on Thursday.
“I’ve heard the rumor for years, but that was the first time I knew there was anything in the works,” he said. He is taking a wait-and-see approach as islanders work through the process. He does not plan to attend Thursday’s meeting.
“I’m not sure my role would be to try to intervene in any way,” he said. “If they wanted us there, obviously we’d be there.”
He said he is unsure of the impact the loss of the 4,000-acre island would have on the county economically.
“We haven’t done any analysis on it,” he said. “We provide some services and it costs money to provide services, so how it would end up, I’m not really certain.”
This is not the first time Daniel Island has explored the possibility of seceding.
In 1999, when Daniel Island had fewer than 200 houses, private Bishop England High School, and a smattering of businesses, the effort failed to gain legs and was scrapped after a straw poll of residents voted 124-27 against the switch.
Edisto Beach, which had complaints similar to Daniel Island’s, was successful in its effort to flee Charleston County in the mid-1970s. Residents voted 56-9 vote to secede, citing issues such as road maintenance, police protection and communication between town and county. In addition, taxes were lower in Colleton County.
“(Edisto residents) would ask for things and get promises from Charleston County and really, nothing happened,” said longtime resident and former town councilman David Lybrand, whose father, Harvie Lybrand, was mayor of Edisto Beach at the time. “It seemed like a natural thing to do.”
In March 1975, Edisto Beach joined Colleton County after the state Supreme Court ruled that a county could annex property that was contiguous only by water.
Thirty years later, citing rising property taxes and dissatisfaction with a $90 million school facilities plan, a grassroots effort of homeowners, whose taxes represent about a third of Colleton’s tax base, threatened a return to Charleston County or to consider going to Beaufort or Jasper counties. That never came to fruition.
“You hear that question from time to time,” Lybrand said. “It’s always greener on the other side of the fence, but I think Colleton County has done a good job for us.”
For Daniel Island to secede, 10 percent of islanders would have to sign a petition to do so, and then the governor would appoint a board to study the possibility. After that, island voters would have to pass the question by a two-thirds vote, and then Charleston County would have to vote by majority to accept the island.
Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or www.twitter.com/brindge.