In 1991, Sullivan’s Island creates a Public Land Trust
In 1991, the Town had the foresight to put the 190-acre accreted land, that now supports a thriving maritime forest, into a public trust to be preserved in its natural state for the benefit, enjoyment and education of current and future generations of islanders and visitors, and for our wildlife partners.
In 2010, Two Homeowners Filed Suit to Cut Vegetation in the Public Land Trust
In 2010, two homeowners (Bluestein and Albenesius) filed a lawsuit after they were denied the right to cut vegetation in the town-owned public land trust in front of their properties to no less than 3 feet, in order to secure ocean views and breezes.
In 2020, Town Council votes to enter Mediation
The lawsuit has been winding its way through the courts since 2010. The Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Sullivan’s Island in 2018. The Plaintiffs appealed. The SC Supreme Court ruled in February, 2020 that the deed is ambiguous as to what it meant to preserve the land “in its present state”, and sent it back to the lower court for a jury trial to determine the intent of the parties when the land trust was entered into. Town Council voted to enter into mediation in lieu of a trial.
October 2020, Town Council votes 4-3 to approve a Mediation Settlement Agreement
In October, 2020, the Sullivan’s Island Town Council voted, by the narrowest of margins, to settle the Bluestein Lawsuit which mandates removing thousands of trees and countless shrubs in the public land trust to secure ocean views and breezes for those who live in front row properties. This settlement will destroy the vibrant maritime forest ecosystem and will significantly degrade the island’s hurricane storm surge protection.
This settlement went far beyond any management plan ever considered by the town.
All public hearings on this topic of vital interest to all islanders were put on hold due to COVID. In the past, any changes to the accreted land management plan were crafted with input from the public after multiple hearings in public forums.
March, 2021 Town Council votes 4-2 to enter into a NEW Settlement Agreement and send the Work Plan to DHEC and Army Corp for their review
Once it became clear that the Original Settlement was unlikely to secure permits from DHEC and Army Corp, on March 16, 2021, Town Council voted 4-2 to approve a New Settlement, which they thought would have a better chance of securing permits and providing “ocean views and breezes”. Town Council also voted to send the Work Plan, incorporating the terms of the New Settlement, to DHEC and Army Corp for their permitting review.
This New Settlement mandates the removal or severe cutting of thousands of trees, shrubs and vegetation, between Station 16 and 28.5, including cutting the majority of myrtles to 3’, and allows any plant to be cut – without height restriction – so long as an arborist opines it won’t likely kill it. It leaves the island dangerously vulnerable to the #1 threat: hurricane storm surge. It also introduces the use of poisonous herbicides to paint tree stumps to prevent regrowth, in an area covered by wetlands, and damages a sensitive wildlife habitat and nature preserve.
As with the Original Settlement, Sullivan’s Island Town Council has handed over the keys to two families and their heirs …into perpetuity…to manage land they do not own for their own benefit, regardless of any negative impact to public health, safety or pocketbooks of residents, visitors, wildlife or the environment.
Now’s the time to speak. The public deserves a voice on land held in a public land trust. Natural resources should be managed for the best interest of the most people, not the few. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.