How will annexations affect Ladys Island?

24 Jan How will annexations affect Ladys Island?

While some believe than annexations and rezoning on Ladys Island will have dire consequences to the residents, I do not believe that to be the case. In fact, I believe if the County, the City and residents of Ladys Island work together, the annexations might be helpful to finding a solution.

I understand that Ladys Island has serious traffic congestion that makes living on the island inconvenient. At the same time these problems existed before recent annexations.  Ladys Island faces challenges because too many residences were permitted without adequate planning for transportation and adjacent service delivery.  If so many people did not live on Ladys Island with its inadequate infrastructure, and hundreds more were not on the way, they would not have the inconveniences they face which will get worse as the Island’s population, larger than the City of Beaufort of the Town of Port Royal, grows.

Furthermore, it is not annexations or rezoning that have brought and will continue to bring retail options to the islands. Rather it is that retailers count the existing and coming residential development and do what they find necessary to get closer to their prospective shoppers whether they locate on properties under county or municipal jurisdiction.

All this said, it is clear that more retail on the Ladys Island will change traffic patterns if not traffic counts. For this reason, the City initiated a traffic study of the affected areas on Ladys Island and Beaufort County Council contributed significantly by allowing some of the +/-  $280,000 Transportation Impact fee collected from the new Walmart to be used to help the city fund the study.  (For those who do not know,  while the city collects impact fees, most of the money goes directly to the County and does not remain in the City unless granted back to the City by a County Council vote.  That said, the dollars are supposed to be used in that part of the county where they are collected, in this case the city.)

While Walmart, Publix, and Harris Teeter were required to conduct traffic studies and plan to accommodate “their” direct impacts as they are doing, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts which means each of the new businesses compounds upon another so a comprehensive study looking at the cumulative effect is required and being conducted.

I understand that the first phase of the study is near completion and is being made available to the public for review.  It will also be presented at Friday’s Northern Regional Plan Implementation Committee. I had an opportunity to briefly preview it, and while I believe it can mitigate some of the short term challenges, my cursory review leads me to believe it does not address much of  the more important overriding concern about how Ladys Island will grow given already approved additional residential and more that appears to be in progress.

It is my personal belief that before more roads are built and others widened creating more capacity while possibly changing the character of existing neighborhoods, Ladys Island needs a long term master plan before laying more concrete if and when the dollars become available. (If my memory serves me well, I believe there was such a plan but development occurred faster than the plan was implemented likely out dating the plan.)

The Sea Island Coalition, in concert with the Coastal Conservation League and others, has planned, and I fully support,  an initial community planning session.  (Unfortunately the initial meeting had to be cancelled but a new date will soon he established.)  Through that process I hope the County,  with the help of the City if necessary, can work with residents and businesses to develop a long term plan.

At this point, though my mind can be changed,  I believe the City annexations along Sea Island Parkway can help solve some of the problem. If we accept the notion that more retail is coming, as I believe it will,  to follow the roof tops,  and that by making Ladys Island Parkway more urban, for lack of a better term a “downtown” for the islands, we can rearrange traffic, mitigate impacts and make living on Ladys Island more convenient for those who choose to live there.  It can also mitigate bridge crossings and likely eliminate the need for many on the Island to have to cross Sea Island Parkway every time they choose to shop.

While at this time I speak for myself and not for city council, the plan is critical and well worth postponing a band aid solution.

I look forward to the public planning process and can assure you I will do what I can as Mayor to help it move forward as the challenge on Ladys Island not only threatens Ladys Island but all of northern Beaufort County. So lets get to work together as neighbors should do.