The real story of Captain Sam’s Spit should ease concerns

Capt. Sam's Spit. (File/Staff)

By Patrick Melton, Jordan Phillips,

Chris Randolph and Will Culp

For over 25 years, we at Kiawah Partners have successfully planned and executed the creation of an extraordinary and environmentally responsible community on Kiawah Island. Over the course of the last eight of those years, we have worked to plan a neighborhood consistent with that environmentally sensitive approach on the land that sits at the western end of Kiawah Island known as Captain Sam’s Spit.

We would like to take this opportunity to let the community know of the efforts we have taken to ensure our commitment to the sustainability of Captain Sam’s. Captain Sam’s contains 180 acres of very stable high ground. It has been accreting sand for the past 60 years, and is currently growing at an annual rate of six to 15 feet on the ocean side of the spit.

This land rises up to 15 feet above sea level and contains 30-foot-tall pine trees, dense 15-foot-tall wax myrtles, and other mature dune vegetation. In other words, it is a terrain quite similar to the rest of Kiawah, which has been carefully and successfully developed over the past 40 years and for which Kiawah Partners has been recognized by state agencies and national organizations dedicated to the preservation of the environment.

Not coincidentally, over the same period Kiawah has had an enormously positive economic impact on the Charleston area in terms of jobs, consumer spending, taxes, and contributions to charity. By the terms of a 2005 development agreement with the Town of Kiawah Island, we currently have the right to develop up to 50 home sites on 20 acres of this private property, with the remaining 160 acres to be placed into a conservation easement — permanently preserving significant habitat for nesting birds, bobcats and deer. No protected or endangered species live on the land which is to be developed, nor is the proposed development site in a designated critical wildlife area.

Further, our proposed home sites will stand behind four to eight dune ridges and will sit between 300 and 850 feet from the beach. As is the case for all of Kiawah’s oceanfront properties, Captain Sam’s will far exceed typical ocean setbacks, creating a significant buffer between the ocean and our residents’ homes.

All of the infrastructure and homes will be privately funded and privately owned. Federal flood insurance will not be available as is the case on many existing coastal homes. The public will not be subsidizing the limited development, and the project will be carried out at no taxpayer expense. We have recently received approval from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) for a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan, which will allow us to move forward with installing the road and utilities for Captain Sam’s.

This plan provides for an in-ground sheet pile system on high ground behind the Kiawah River shoreline, not on the shoreline itself. This approved plan follows the same tried and true approach that has been used in many coastal communities, including elsewhere in Kiawah, and is consistent with our overall strategy of developing Captain Sam’s in a very environmentally sensitive manner.

Importantly, recent proposed legislation in the S.C. Legislature would prevent the baseline from ever moving seaward all along the state’s beaches. No development can occur on the ocean side of this line. Although we disagree that the line should be set at a date six years in the past as Senate bill 139 currently contemplates, we at Kiawah fully support the goals of this legislation.

We are ready to proceed with development using the valuable talents of the same team that for over 25 years has successfully planned and executed the creation of Kiawah. Respect for the environment will be a crucial priority. Wildlife will continue to live in harmony with our owners and visitors. Deer and bobcats will still grace our lawns and common property, and osprey, eagles, and thousands of other birds will fly above our coastline. Dolphins will continue to strand feed in the Kiawah River. Captain Sam’s will be no different from what has been and will always be our environmentally responsible approach to development.

Patrick Melton, Jordan Phillips, Chris Randolph and Will Culp, of Kiawah Partners.