[image-1]State lawmakers jockeyed back and forth this week on a key piece of legislation to determine the future of development on Captain Sam’s Spit.

Introduced by Sen. Ray Cleary of Murrells Inlet, a bill currently up for debate on the floor of the Senate seeks to establish a permanent baseline for coastal areas beyond which development is prohibited. In its original language, the bill would set this boundary based on recommendations from the state’s Blue Ribbon Committee on Shoreline Management. The bill could also prohibit Kiawah Development Partners from moving ahead with current plans for constructing 50 homes and an access road along the spit, which sits just below Kiawah Island.

In their final report, the committee stated, “Although several municipalities, including the Town of Pawleys Island and the Town of Hilton Head Island, impose oceanfront development restrictions that surpass those of the state, the majority of committee members agree that there is a need for a consistent and more conservative statewide policy that effectively ‘holds the line’ on development along the oceanfront.”

Under current state legislation, the Department of Health and Environmental Control is tasked with reassessing the coastal baseline approximately every decade, taking into account the constant erosion and accretion that reshapes the coastline. Backed by the support of conservationists, Sen. Cleary hopes to prevent this baseline from being moved farther seaward regardless of the constantly shifting shoreline — portions of which have shrunk as much as 67 feet since 2006. An online petition in support of Cleary’s plan has gained more than 2,000 signatures since Jan. 6.

Standing in opposition of the original bill is Sen. Paul Campbell of Goose Creek, who proposed delaying the establishment of a permanent baseline. Campbell argued that the state should be wary of stopping development on Captain Sam’s Spit due to the possibility of legal action from developers. The possible legal ramifications of setting a baseline were discounted in the final report by the state’s blue ribbon committee of which Sen. Campbell was a member.

The committee’s final report states, “Based on legal guidance provided by committee members, the majority of committee members agree that there can be no ‘investment-backed expectation’ of a property owner that their purchased beachfront property will accrete and provide additional land for construction or private use. It was also noted that most shorelines that have natural accretion are dynamic and are more likely to be at risk for future erosion, making building in these areas risky.”

The beachfront management bill, including amendments from Campbell that would allow for the current baseline to be moved seaward, was carried over by the Senate and the issue will go back up for debate next week. 

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