Old rivals Charleston, James Island may share new Town Hall

James Island Town Hall currently operates from a Camp Road strip mall, but officials are looking for a new home nearby. Some sites are in the city of Charleston.

Should the next James Island Town Hall actually be in the town?

That’s the question facing officials as they search for a new governmental home. One possible site includes a parking lot that would be governed by the town’s former nemesis.

The Dills Bluff property the town is considering is partly in the town — and partly in the city of Charleston.

But not to worry. The longtime rivals are now on speaking terms, said island Mayor Bill Woolsey.

“I guess we are burying the hatchet, right?” he quipped.

James Island plans a $3 million, 6,000-square-foot Town Hall on Dills Bluff Road near Camp Road. As currently envisioned, the building itself would be inside the town limits, but its vehicle lot would be in Charleston.

“It’s very likely that we will have parking on the city property,” Woolsey said, “but I don’t know. It just hasn’t gotten that far yet.”

If that happens, he expects no problems.

“I talked to Mayor (John) Tecklenburg and we talked with the city of Charleston planning department, and everything is moving smoothly,” Woolsey said.

Councilman Garrett Milliken noted the arrangement could mean that Charleston would have to approve the traditional James Island tree lighting ceremony in the Town Hall parking lot.

But he said that’s not a source of concern.

“We’re friends now,” Milliken said.

For many years, though, it wasn’t that way.

James Islanders who wanted to form their own town waged a long, acrimonious court battle against Charleston under the administration of longtime Mayor Joe Riley —a battle that reached South Carolina’s highest court several times.

After many court-dissolved town incorporations, the S.C. Supreme Court finally ruled on a way forward for incorporation, and the city said it was bowing out of the battle and would leave the fledgling town alone. During his campaign, Tecklenburg vowed to work with the town.

“We have our site picked out and our architect firm is working on the design,” Woolsey said.

The new site is not far from the island’s current Town Hall, which is in a strip mall on Camp Road.

Woolsey said the town was looking at several nearby properties, including 1109 Camp, 1122 Dills Bluff and 1126 Dills Bluff roads. Charleston spokesman Jack O’Toole said 1109 Camp is entirely in the city of Charleston.

Reach Prentiss Findlay at 843-937-5711.