The latest court decision regarding Captain Sam’s Spit gave the fragile coastal property a welcome reprieve. Let’s hope it promises that the spit will be saved from development permanently.
Kiawah Development Partners (KDP) will have to wait until a related court case is resolved before it can begin planting a half-mile long sheet pile wall on the environmentally sensitive land.
Of course that makes good sense. Why should a developer be given permission to begin construction that might be ruled against?
But if the law gets in the way, the next step can be to get the law changed.
That’s what some legislators are trying to do with a misguided bill that would limit that automatic stay in the Administrative Law Court to 30 days — an unreasonably short period of time for a hearing to be prepared and take place.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Sean Bennett, R-Summerville, could render appeals worthless.
The developer could begin work on an environmentally harmful project before opposition to the project is heard by the court. So even if the court agrees with the opposition, the project could be well under way.
The bill would deal a serious and unnecessary blow to conservation.
In the continuing saga of Captain Sam’s Spit, Kiawah Development Partners wants to build a road along the Kiawah River across a narrow neck of land so that it can construct 50 houses on the 150-acre spit of sand. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control gave its permission for KDP to construct a wall to stop erosion from undermining the road.
The South Carolina Environmental Law Project (SCELP) appealed the decision. The issue is still in the courts.
KDP is very eager to begin work because the neck is eroding and jeopardizing the project altogether. In October, for example, 12 feet of dunes adjacent to the proposed road site were lost. That’s ironic since the spit’s volatility is one of the main reasons SCELP and the Coastal Conservation League think developing it is a bad idea.
Another reason is that Captain Sam’s is an important nesting area for a variety of bird species and provides habitat for other rare, threatened and endangered wildlife.
It also is one of only three remaining publicly accessible, undeveloped barrier island spits in the state.
The S.C. Supreme Court’s wise decision to prevent work from beginning before the case is heard is the latest chapter in a complex, years-long-and-still-ongoing debate about what should be simple: Captain Sam’s Spit is the wrong place for development.
No matter how careful the plan to avoid disrupting the environment, building a road and a resort development is going to be disruptive.
No matter how nice the houses look, they would be built on unstable land.
And no matter how inviting the Lowcountry coast is for development, natural places like Captain Sam’s Spit are rare — and well worth the legal efforts, and delays, to preserve.