07 Feb Annexation - An Irate Letter and Explanation
Since the City proceeded with plans to annex certain properties on Ladys Island I have received surprisingly few letters from Ladys Island residents. A few were simply vetting anger while others were seeking to simply understand. Given I know this is very much on the mind of many on the Island, I thought I would share questions and my responses.
The following comes from a resident of Ladys Island by email:
I am very disappointed that you say the annexations on LI were voluntary. It has been quite clear that some businesses were coerced. Even the city’s lawyer was quoted as saying so. What services is the city going to bring to us-police?? Well WalMart will likely draw crime as all Wal Marts do but so far, the county sheriff’s have provided good protection.
For 19 years I have called Beaufort “my town”. I have asked for years how I could contribute to the city. Now, the city will receive revenue while I wonder if I will get off the island in an emergency. I get to sit in traffic and risk my safety trying to cross BOTH bridges. It is very disturbing and ingenuous if not down right sleazy of the city to perpetrate these “mis-communications” and clearly not care about the island residents and future tourists (who will not continue to try to get into Beaufort).
So very disillusioned, Unhappy Ladys Island Resident
Dear Unhappy Resident:
I am sorry for you that you are unhappy that literally thousands of others followed you to Ladys Island causing the traffic congestion you believe makes you unsafe and inconvenienced. I am also sorry you are not happy that new retail businesses are following the new roof tops and disposable income to make shopping more convenient for those who live on the islands.
But I am most sorry that you would mischaracterize the city attorney and therefore the City Council. It is a fact that under the process of annexation of multiple parcels, under SC Law, the city has the right to annex some who may not want to annex. That being said, of the parcels annexed into the City, 100% of them petitioned to come into the City. No one was coerced!
It is my firmly held understanding, from what I have seen in recent years, that residential development without adequate infrastructure creates traffic congestion. And I know from the days when I was a commercial real estate broker that new residences draw commercial. Accordingly, the more people who move to Ladys Island the more retail will follow.
Allow me too briefly explain the value of annexation of commercial properties which is the City’s primary goal.
The benefit to property owners is that they get a higher level of service, especially police and solid waste. Furthermore, they are relieved from paying annual fees to the Ladys Island - St Helena Island Fire District since the City pays, by agreement, the LISHIFD to continue fire coverage for city properties on Ladys Island.
The benefit to the city is that as we fill in “donut holes” (areas surrounded by city properties), the cost per unit of services goes down because cost of serving new properties is incremental and not duplicative. The second benefit to the city, as prescribed in multiple City and County plans is that annexations of donut holes creates an opportunity to extend our small downtown across the bridge to serve residents of Ladys Island without them having necessarily travel off island for all of the services they may want or need. The cluster of commercial properties creates the opportunity for a more urban environment and taking less pressure off of the over crowded bridges. This can also partially mitigate congestion if we attract the right mix of retail in a concentrated area as the County and the City suggested in the plan to create a village center on the island. Unfortunately, before the plan was ever put into place, it was outdated as the residential develop grew so fast and is bound to continue in the future.
Annexation benefits the county because the county continues to collect taxes, since all municipal property owners pay the same taxes as out of city residents and businesses, regardless of whether they are annexed or not. Accordingly, the county collecting taxes and being able to reduce services picked up by the city is a savings to all residents of Beaufort County.
Annexations benefit the Ladys Island - St Helena Island Fire District because they continue to serve the same clients, with some paid by the city, and accordingly — not needing to add personnel, training, equipment, new fire stations to do so — have an incrementally expanded base of income without additional costs. This has the potential of reducing the per unit cost of fire protection and possibly reduce fees or hold the line with rising costs for operation. We have a good relationship with the LISHIFD and are very happy with their services and what we consider a fair level of compensation.
Where we have no plans to annex in the near future;
Finally, while the Northern Regional Plan, passed by Beaufort County, the Town of Port Royal and the City of Beaufort, proscribe the City’s future boundaries from the southern tip of Cat Island to the northern tip of Ladys Island at Lucy Creek and from the Woods Bridge to Cowan Creek, our current annexation initiatives are, and will remain, focused on the McTeer Bridge to Miller Road and from the Woods Bridge to Cowan Creek or maybe even not that far to the east.
We believe this focus gives us the opportunity to work with the residents of Ladys Island and Beaufort County to create the village environment earlier envisioned without intruding into established residential neighborhoods.
With the support of Beaufort County we are in the midst of conducting a traffic study of areas within the city’s growth boundaries on Ladys Island. Even though Walmart, Publix and Harris Teeter were each required to completed a traffic impact analysis and mitigate their immediate impact, the analyses were site specific and did not take into account the cumulative impact which is critical to understanding the larger challenge. The planners have a concept for expanding road which is available for public review and comment at a meeting at Ladys Island Middle School at 6PM on February 16th. I hope to see you there.