Tuesday’s referendum on the town of James Island could hardly have been more conclusive. Eighty-five percent of those who went to the polls voted to re-establish the town, despite the repeatedly successful legal efforts to derail the incorporation by the city of Charleston. Or maybe because of those efforts.
Simply put, the people have spoken, and more decisively than in the three previous elections. They want to control their municipal destiny, particularly in the planning arena.
But James Islanders will be doing so on a smaller scale. The new town will include a population of only 11,000, and in a more circumscribed area of the island than in previous incarnations.
In that regard, the city of Charleston’s annexation efforts and legal challenges to the town have limited the town’s options. Contiguity is restricted, and there remain substantial areas that are neither in the city of Charleston nor the town.
Nevertheless, the town will seek to expand its boundaries by offering annexation to areas where a case for contiguity can be made.
In limiting its initial boundaries, advocates of the town sought to avoid the contiguity problem of the previous incorporation. The court ruled against the town on that issue in 2011.
According to our news story, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley hasn’t ruled out another challenge. But the city previously stated, “If the City of Charleston determines that the town is legally formed, the city will not contest it, and therefore the town will be permanently incorporated and these owners will be a part of it forever.”
That was meant as a warning by the city, and an encouragement to James Islanders to join the city by annexation. The election results suggest that most of those who want to annex to Charleston have done so.
And the repeated efforts to incorporate since 1993 say that the resolve of those who live within the town boundaries is undiminished.
Maybe this time, they have finally succeeded.
In that regard, the city’s warning to property owners in the prospective town that they “will be a part of it forever” could be viewed as a promise.