Second row promoted to beachfront in new DHEC plan for Edisto | News | The Press and Standard

by | November 2, 2017 5:00 am

Last Updated: November 1, 2017 at 11:57 am

Edisto Beach’s governmental officials and residents are watching and waiting to see if the march toward establishing new beachfront jurisdictional lines can be delayed.
Every 8-10 years, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Ocean and Coastal Resource Management department is required to study the coast and set a new baseline and a new setback line. The new baseline is on the beach side of Palmetto Boulevard and the new setback is on the other side of the road. This puts all of the beachfront homes in an area where homeowners would have to jump through many hoops to rebuild and essentially makes the second-row homes the front beach.
An email from DHEC arrived at the town hall on Oct. 6 announcing the changes, a move that started the 30-day period for public comment.
Council members at their next session approved a resolution calling on the state to delay implementation of the new lines.
Because DHEC had not notified the property owners of the looming changes, Town Administrator Iris Hill said the town posted the information on its Facebook page and sent a letter to each property owner.
Hill explained that DHEC was originally been scheduled to release the information in August, but it was delayed because of because of this year’s hurricanes.
Although the release of the information and the time period for responding were pushed back, the date of implementation was not.
DHEC is planning to vote on final lines in the second week of December and have them officially in place on Dec. 31.
The resolution passed by Edisto Beach Town Council calls for a one-year delay in the implementation of the new lines. That resolution states that the abbreviated time line provides inadequate time for property owner to file appeals and for DHEC to respond to those appeals.
“We felt that they are trying to consolidate that time line so quickly that is not going to allow people to be notified and they would get blindsided by this,” Hill said.
There is some question if DHEC can unilaterally extend the implementation date — the Dec. 31 date was established by Senate Bill 139.
The senate bill also contains a provision that can have far reaching impact: it states that the baseline implemented on Dec. 31 can never be changed to move it back toward the shore.
Hill said the new lines are going to benefit some property owners along the coast and not benefit others. “There are going to be areas that become buildable, areas that will become unbuildable,” Hill explained.
“Most of the Edisto Beach property owners are not going to get a benefit,” Hill said.
The owners of homes damaged by future storms can rebuild, but their restored homes have to retain the same footprint; they cannot be larger. Those property owners wanting to rebuilt after storm damage will have to obtain a special permit from the Ocean and Coastal Resource Management Department and a variance from Edisto Beach’s Board of Zoning Appeals.
Hill said there are at least 10 beachfront lots where homes have not been built. She said those lot owners face some uncertainty as to whether they will be able to built on those lots in the future.
DHEC officials, she said, have said that building permits for those lots will be available. “But the people in agencies change. The people saying that now might not be there in the future,” Hill said.
As the state was working on what eventually became Senate Bill 139, a blue ribbon committee was formed to make recommendations about how to approach establishing the new lines.
“Some place between commission recommendations and legislation, it got changed,” Hill said.
“If DHEC had done this before we were impacted by three hurricanes, we probably would not be having this conversation, because the base lines probably would not have changed,” Hill said. “Surveying after Matthew was not indicative of what the beach looks like now.”
OCRM, when conducting the latest survey, ignored the previous data.
Annual surveys of Edisto Beach’s coastline, Hill said, showed “nothing had changed on Edisto Beach since 2009. OCRM officials, said “they did not look at previous data; they started from scratch.”
Also tossed out were the results of appeals of the previous lines.
Another thing that had no effect on OCRM’s decision was the recent beach renourishment that produced a much wider beach protected by larger groins. Hill said that the storm search produced by Tropical Storm Irma provided evidence that the project has improved the beach’s ability to weather the storm.
Hill pointed out that OCRM’s policy is not to consider any renourishment until it has been in place for two years.
“I believe that if they waited two years, they would find beachfront is different than what they saw in the past,” Hill said.
Although the immediate effect of the changing lines will be faced by the property owners, Hill said the town will eventually feel the effects fiscally. “It is going to effect property values, effect the resale of property,” Hill said.

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