Now that the town of James Island is no more — thanks to a June 20 state Supreme Court ruling — some residents have set their sights on becoming Charlestonians. According to Tim Keane, director of the city’s planning, preservation, and sustainability department, the City of Charleston has received 50 annexation requests from James Island residents. The city planning director expects requests to increase throughout the ensuing weeks.
“It’s a good deal to be in the city,” says Keane, referring to the city’s public services. “There’s better police protection and recreational services.”
Even though scores of island residents have sent annex requests to the city, Town of James Island Mayor Bill Woolsey is petitioning for another hearing in court and requesting 2,000 signatures from registered voters
Susan Milliken of the Lawton Bluff neighborhood says the town’s continued reincorporation efforts are crucial in helping give residents control over island issues, such as planning, zoning, and development.
“Some people think we’re a paper town, unable to accomplish anything. That’s not true, though, and we’re doing a lot,” says 14-year island resident Milliken. “Every time we start to gain momentum we’re dissolved.”
A 2010 census shows the island’s population nearly split in half, with roughly 17,000 residing in the city and 18,000 in the town. Roughly 3,500 to 3,800 James Island properties are currently eligible for annexation, according to Keane.
James Island resident Paula Byers says her interest in joining the City of Charleston has decreased over the years. “The Town of James Island has been giving the people a voice,” says Byers, who referenced her opposition toward the I-526 extension and the Harbor View Road widening proposals. “I’m against 526, so I’m supporting the town. The mayor [Woolsey] listens to people, and I think the town is more accurately reflecting its people than the city would.”
Keane says if James Island residents continue annexing into the city, an additional city council district will eventually be added to the city’s current 12 single member districts, providing more representation for the island in the city of Charleston.
“The reason to have a town is to provide services — not for everyone to voice their opinions,” says Keane.