JAMES ISLAND — A day after the state Supreme Court ruled that their town was not formed legally, James Islanders crowded into Town Hall — and they were not in the mood for a funeral.
Numerous speakers told council and Mayor Bill Woolsey they are not discouraged, and in fact are emboldened, and ready to incorporate the town for the fourth time.
Woolsey and council members pledged to a nearly full house at the meeting to appeal Monday's court ruling, and to also pursue what would be the fourth effort to legally form the town since 1993. He said that, meanwhile, the town will continue to operate, at least until the court orders a dissolution of the municipality.
'It's still business as usual at Town Hall,' he said.
All those who spoke expressed desires for forming a new town, if the town's appeal fails.
'I am ready to help with any re-incorporation effort,' Garrett Milliken of Fort Sumter Drive, a regular at council meetings, proclaimed. He said the town that the court has just struck down had given islanders a sense of pride and allowed them to have some control regarding roads, crime prevention, zoning and litter.
'We have a voice in our government,' Milliken said.
Toni Reale, who formerly headed the town's Election Commission, told council she hopes 'you will stand strong in your efforts to reincorporate' the town. Each of the three times the town has incorporated — and elected a mayor, council and enacted laws — the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the city of Charleston lawsuits challenging the legality of the incorporation.
Cubby Wilder, a former town councilman involved in all of the previous incorporations, pledged his support for another go-round. 'I will be right there with you,' he said.
'We are fighting people on this island, and we have pride in this island,' Councilwoman Karen Wilder-Smalls told the audience. 'If it takes a fourth time, we are going to do it.'
Trent Kernodle, an attorney who headed up efforts to turn back Charleston's lawsuit, urged Woolsey to get started right away on the fundraising and petition efforts that will be needed to form a new town. He said it's rare that the Supreme Court agrees to reconsider its decisions, and should the appeal be turned down, the town could already be working to file incorporation papers.
Town attorneys said they are encouraged by part of the court's Monday ruling — which they say will enable them to legally form a new, but smaller, version of the town. The new town would have 12,000 to 15,000 residents, the attorneys said.
The town also could urge the state Legislature to make a new law regarding incorporation, Kernodle said, but added that would invite new challenges from the city of Charleston. He warned council that the city is not resting after winning the latest court showdown, 'and is probably visiting someone right now because they have spotted something that could foil our plans to include a piece of property.'
State Rep. Peter McCoy, a Republican who represents James Island, said it appears that people who live in what would be the new town of James Island strongly favor incorporation
'My duty is to represent the island and help any way I can with the fourth incorporation,' McCoy said.