KIAWAH ISLAND, SC – Groups on both sides of a dispute over a one-year extension of the preliminary plat approval for a development on fragile Captain Sams Spit, located at the south end of Kiawah Island, now agree that the plat extension has expired and is no longer valid. The parties requested that the case be dismissed as moot.
Last August, South Carolina Environmental Law Project (SCELP) filed an appeal on behalf of PreserveKiawah, Inc., a non-profit group comprised of Kiawah property owners, challenging the Town of Kiawah Island Planning Commission’s July 6, 2022 decision to extend the approval of the Kiawah developers’ preliminary subdivision plat for Captain Sams Spit for another year.
The plat, initially approved in 2015, laid out plans to construct 50 single family homes on this 190-acre dynamic, teardrop-shaped isthmus located on the southern end of Kiawah Island, surrounded by the Kiawah River, Captain Sams Inlet and the Atlantic Ocean.
The Charleston County Circuit Court heard oral argument on the appeal on April 6, 2023, where attorneys from SCELP argued on behalf of PreserveKiawah that the preliminary plat had expired well before the Planning Commission attempted to grant another extension in 2022; therefore, the extension was illegally granted.
“I’m delighted that the plat extension has expired and is no longer valid,” said Perry Molinoff, PreserveKiawah chair. “Captain Sams Spit needs to be protected for the benefit of future generations. Any renewed attempt to develop the spit will need to initiate the process from ground zero.”
Captain Sams Spit is a unique and important habitat for wildlife, including diamondback terrapins, endangered red knots and bottlenose dolphins, as well as a valuable natural resource to the citizens of South Carolina. It is one of only three undeveloped publicly accessible barrier island spits in the state. In the seven years following the preliminary plat’s approval, this shifting spit has changed dramatically, making portions of the plan impossible to accomplish. Specifically, the neck of the Spit, which connects it to the mainland of Kiawah, has become so narrow that a road and other infrastructure cannot be constructed without impacting protected critical area or the beach/dune system.
“In the face of rising sea levels and accelerating loss of fragile ecosystems, SCELP is committed to pushing back against proposals to develop these last remaining havens for shorebirds and other wildlife,” said SCELP’s executive director, Amy Armstrong. “Captain Sams Spit is one of these havens and must be protected for the benefit of the residents of our state and the natural systems upon which we all depend. We are thankful that the developer no longer has a valid local approval for its proposed 50-house development.”
Amy Armstrong, Esquire
Executive Director, General Counsel
South Carolina Environmental Law Project
firstname.lastname@example.org, (843) 527-0078
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PreserveKiawah is a non-profit public interest group dedicated to promoting responsible development and governance of the Kiawah Island area, protecting the distinctive character of the community and preserving its unique natural environment. Learn more at www.preservekiawahisland.org.
The South Carolina Environmental Law Project is a nonprofit public interest law firm. We use our legal expertise to protect land, water and communities across South Carolina. Learn more at www.scelp.org.