Organizers of the town of James Island are hoping the fourth time is charm.
Bill Woolsey said the group Free James Island will take a step in its latest attempt to form a town on Monday when it delivers a petition to the Secretary of State in Columbia.
Woolsey was mayor when the state Supreme Court ruled last summer that the town had not been formed legally in 2006. The court made that decision largely because all of the parts of the town were not "contiguous," he said, and the town was dissolved. That marked the end the town's third shot at incorporation.
But town leaders learned a lot in the process, he said. "We've been more careful to form a town so all of it is contiguous, none of it is separate," Woolsey said. "We're confident we'll prevail."
The summer ruling marked the third time since 1993 that the unincorporated area of James Island had tried to form a town, only to see its efforts undone by a legal challenge from the city of Charleston and the Supreme Court ruling.
Woolsey said the group's petition needed about 1,300 signatures, but it has about 1,750.
The town, the way it is drawn now, would have nearly 12,000 residents.
After his group delivers the petition, the Secretary of State must review it and verify the signatures. It then goes to the Joint Legislative Committee on Incorporation for approval.
If it's approved, the James Island group must hold a referendum between 20 and 90 days later. And if the majority of potential residents vote in favor of forming a town, the final step is to hold an election for mayor and town council members, Woolsey said.
He also said he hopes the plan moves forward quickly and that the group can open town hall by Feb. 1.
Former Town Councilman Leonard Blank said he's fairly confident the effort will work this time. "We know more than we've ever known before," he said.
But the city of Charleston apparently isn't planning to easily let go of James Island.
Charleston Planning Director Tim Keane said earlier this week that the city has annexed about 120 properties on James Island since the third version of the town was declared invalid. Keane said there are numerous other parcels in the process of being annexed.
Woolsey has said that there are more than 5,000 parcels in the area targeted for incorporation, and that the loss of the tracts the city has annexed will not change the plans of those seeking a new town.
The city held a series of public forums on James Island and distributed information to residents on property taxes, police and fire protection, recreation programs and water provided by the Charleston Water System.
State Rep. Peter McCoy, R-Charleston, said the last incorporation of the town came fairly close to taking root. Things look even better this time, he said. "I feel good about their chances."
Eddie Fennell contributed to this report.