PreserveKiawah values thoughtful analysis, transparency and good faith open communication with the community.
See below for Brad Belt's, PreserveKiawah Board Member, letters to the community re: Upper Beachwalker.
"Higher density development is inconsistent with the comprehensive plan and, given the traffic impact and noise and environmental concerns, the proposed amendment will in no way 'further' general health, safety and welfare."
Date: Sun, Feb 13, 2022 at 3:17 PM
A fairly quick turnaround on this next post - some time sensitivity as I understand that KP and its representative are pushing the Town to act - and, more importantly, I want to get ahead of the completion for eyeballs with Super Bowl commercials - oh, and the game itself….
The first part of this post will be even more mind-numbing that previous ones, as it addresses procedural matters. Can’t get much more mundane than that. I do then want to tie all of this into other development initiatives and some interesting aspects of the development agreement.
The question is how does this play out? What is the time frame and what are the relevant criteria? Well, that depends on the actions of the various interested parties, but we can be guided to some extent by the provisions of the development agreement, the Town’s ordinances, and, importantly, recent matters being considered by the Town Council.
First, and foremost, it should be clearly understood that there is nothing that requires the Town to even consider, let alone, act on KP’s request to amend the development agreement itself. The agreement simply provides that it may be amended by mutual agreement of the parties. No requirement that a request of one of the parties be acted upon. No process. No time frame. No decisional criteria. One Town official did say to me that the developer “may have an expectation” that the Town would act favorably on any amendment request, suggesting that the Town might be obligated to do so. To say I was stunned is to put it mildly. Sure, KP may well have such an expectation based on getting their way with every prior amendment, but to suggest that the Town is statutorily or contractually bound to agree to anything just because the developer wants it is absurd on its face.
Another important - while I would submit that the development agreement is quite one-sided in favor of the developer and ties the hands of the Town in unusual (perhaps unenforceable) ways in many respects, amendments are not a one-way street. For example, the Town could request to amend the agreement to accelerate its termination date. Doubt that would be given much consideration by KP. The Town could request that given changed circumstances and increased pressures on traffic and infrastructure, the remaining undeveloped parcels subject to the agreement actually be down-zoned - perhaps in consideration for something like, say, consolidation of certain parcels.
Apart from the Town seeking to amend the agreement, while it doesn’t have to act on the developers request, to the extent it might consider doing so, it can impose ANY conditions it deems necessary or appropriate in consideration of the requested amendment by the developer. It can demand a traffic study be provided. It can demand that a sewer and water capacity assessment be undertaken (which, by the way, is otherwise constrained by the development agreement). It can require an environmental impact assessment. And, so on. Of course, the developer might not accede to any of those, in which case the Town could simply decline to consider the amendment request.
If the Town feels compelled to formally act on the KP request - perhaps based on a well intended view that KP is and will continue to have significant interests on and around the island and thus feels obligated to consider the request - what happens then? Development agreements are addressed in the Town’s ordinances at Sec. 12-160. Unfortunately, there isn’t much there. Basically, entering into a development agreement requires the passage of an ordinance with the standard two readings, at least two public hearings, and a planning commission finding that the agreement is consistent with the Town’s comprehensive plan. It simply says that the agreement may be amended or terminated by the parties, although basic statutory construction would dictate that amendments would also have to approved by an ordinance. But, that’s it. No formal review process and there isn’t a set of criteria or factors that the Council must explicitly consider.
In some respects, that’s very similar to the Town’s current annexation provision. The good news is that following the communities strong opposition to how the Andell West proposed development was rolled out and concerns about using the annexation process in conjunction with consideration of a planned development proposal, the Town is now considering adopting a new annexation policy manual and changes to the annexation and planned development ordinances, with a focus on requiring more community input and consideration of various criteria, such as consistency with the comprehensive plan, protection of the health, safety and welfare of the community, as well as environmental factors.
The current proposal would only affect the planned development ordinance, dealing with mixed use (residential and commercial) projects. But, given that development agreements and amendments thereto can be at least as consequential, if not more so (witness the development agreement at issue), the same rigorous process and decisional criterial should be applied here, regardless of whether the Town has yet modified Sec. 12-160. The comments made by the Mayor and Council members at a recent workshop were quite constructive and reflected a recognition of the importance of involving the community in these critically important matters.
But, but,,, that is just with regard to amendments to the development agreement itself. As I noted in my previous post, I believe that the church parcel is the linchpin with regard to consideration of the Beachwalker parcels matter. That is not just substantively, for the reasons noted, but also procedurally. The church parcel is NOT part of the development agreement. It is subject to the Town’s zoning provisions and procedures. Given that KP wants an amendment to the Town’s zoning map, a reclassification of the parcel, and a variance with regard to allowed density (both number of DUs and DUs per building), those changes would first have to go through the processes provided for in Sec. 12-158 pertaining to code text and zoning map amendments and Sec. 12-163 dealing with variances. In contrast to Sec. 12-160, there are more detailed processes and review criterial spelled out in those sections.
With regard to zoning map amendments, the criteria that have to be met include that the amendment is consistent with the Town comprehensive plan and the purpose is to “further the general health, safety, and welfare of the Town.” Higher density development is inconsistent with the comprehensive plan and, given the traffic impact and noise and environmental concerns, the proposed amendment with in no way “further” general health, safety and welfare."
The approval criteria for variances are much more stringent - it requires a hardship showing - that the characteristics of the property prevent compliance with zoning requirements. And, that the result of granting the variance would to be detrimental to adjacent property or the pubic good. Interestingly, the fact that a variance might be to the economic benefit of the owner is specifically not grounds for granting it.
However, the substantive and procedural issues related to the church parcel are not the important reasons why it is the linchpin with regard to the Beachwalker parcels. I’ve argued that the because KP is requesting amendments and other changes that it doesn’t have the right to, that the Town has all the LEVERAGE. I would go further than that with regard to the church parcel since it is not part of the development agreement. It has POWER that the developer does not have - that is, to rezone the property to a higher, or lesser, use. The Town, either the Council or the Planning Commission, can initiate a rezoning of the parcel and should consider doing so. Simply rezoning to a lower density classification, i.e., R-1 or R-2, would seem to be entirely consistent with the Town’s prerogatives, the comprehensive plan, and changed circumstances given increased density occurring elsewhere in West Beach. The Town could go so far as to rezone the parcel for recreational or other public use purposes - say a pickle ball park. That might entail a regulatory taking, which may require payment of just compensation, but that is an action that should squarely be part of the Town’s potential courses of action. While certain actions might invite litigation, a very cursory reading of relevant SC Supreme Court decisions suggests that the Town has a fair amount of latitude to exercise its inherent police powers (of which zoning is one).
So, to sum up the procedural considerations…
The Town is not required to consider or act upon KP’s request to amendment the development agreement.
To the extent is decides to do so, the Town can impose any conditions or criteria that is determines to be appropriate, and it should follow the same rigorous process and use similar approval criteria as are applicable to being considered for planned developments.
To the extent that there are proposed to be zoning map amendments and variances with regard to the church parcel, the processes and decisional criteria under Sec. 12-158 and 12-163 would have to be followed.
Now, to shift gears a bit, I want to touch upon a couple of other aspects of the development agreement, particularly as they might relate to other development projects.
First, the development agreement states that there is a cap on new dwelling units of 1,184 post October 2005. That is in addition to lots or dwelling units “approved” prior to that date. Where the heck are we with this? Would seem to be of critically important information for everyone. Just consider the West Beach area alone - what has been built recently, or in pending, or being requested for Timbers, The Cape, Parcel 13/Lot 1, RiverView and The Point - ~320 DUs. Plus Cassique and Ocean Park. What else has been developed since 2005?
Second, there is an exhibit to the development agreement pertaining to Traffic Mitigation. It basically requires the Town to conduct traffic counts 3 times a year, including during peak periods in June. To the extent that certain traffic volumes on KIP or the Bridge or intersection exceed certain levels, then KP is required to submit a traffic mitigation plan for reducing volumes or expanding roadway capacity. KP is on the hook for those. Basically, if there is any hour in which traffic volume exceeds 1,190 vehicles on the bridge or 1,330 along KIP, then a traffic mitigation plan is required. What is the result of these traffic assessments? When was the last one conducted? Has a mitigation plan been required? Between KIC and KIGR employees, contractors and other service providers and vendors, island homeowners, Beachwalker park traffic, plus renters checking in and out, it certainly feels like there are periods during Friday and Saturday afternoons during the summer when there are at least that many vehicles traversing the Parkway.
Third, are issues related to the ARB, apart from where it should reside going forward. There are several instances in the development agreement which state that the ARB “shall” apply certain standards, e.g., building standards, regarding removal and replacement of trees, and the generally the Design with Nature guidelines. I assume that is to protect the interests of both parties to the agreement, both the Town and the developer. In one reference to “shall” it indicates that the ARB make depart from the guidelines if “exceptional circumstances” exist. In another, with regard to tree replacement, variances require approval of the Town. In other instances, the ARB and/or developer have the discretion to change guidelines or standards. The question is whether in all appropriate instances have the relevant standards or guidelines been followed per the agreement. In instances where there is some discretion to changes standards, has that actual been done. Take one example - ARB approval is required to remove trees. Did the ARB actually receive a request to remove every tree on The Cape parcel, and was that formally approved? The same with various vegetation buffers between properties. I raise this because, if there are instances in which the guidelines and standards were not adhered to by the ARB to the benefit of the developer, as the developer controls the ARB, might that constitute a breach of the development agreement to the detriment of the Town’s interests? Uncured breaches would enable the Town to terminate the agreement.
These are simply areas that might warrant further exploration and consideration.
Where does this all leave us?
I’ll go back to where I started.
KP’s requested amendments to the development agreement and Town zoning map and other variances are contrary to the best interests of the community writ large. The density of development proposed is inconsistent with the Town’s Comprehensive Plan. It would not “further” the health, safety and welfare of the Town’s residents. It would be wholly out of scale with surrounding neighborhoods. It would stress island infrastructure, particularly exacerbating current traffic congestion at KIP and Beachwalker Drive. It would result in the loss of critical wildlife habitat. And, so on…
The Town should not accede to KP’s request to consolidate the parcels, up-zone them to the highest allowed density, obtain variances with regard to building mass, or make the church parcel subject to the development agreement. As to the latter point, the Town should consider whether the best interests of the community would be served by rezoning the church parcel to a less density use.
KP does have vested development rights to some of the parcels, but must believe that the parcels cannot be viably developed absent all the changes it is seeking. I have little doubt that KP acquired the various parcels with the expectation that they would be able to combine and up zone them in order to maximize the return on those assets for their investors. Based on what has transpired in then past, that was probably not an unreasonable expectation. But, circumstances have changed as has the balanced of equities and interests. Hopefully, that expectation will be dashed.
While I believe it would be best for the island as a whole for there to be no further development of the Beachwalker parcels, is there a basis for a negotiated solution that doesn’t make everyone happy, but might represent a reasonable trade off of competing interests and considerations. Probably so. But, what KP is proposing is a long way from that.
To extent that the Town feels compelled to formally consider KP’s request, it should not do so unless and until substantially more information is provided to the Town and the community, and then it should adhere to the rigorous review process and approval criteria that are otherwise relevant and applicable to zoning map amendments, variance requests, and planned developments with ample opportunity for community input.
We understand that the developer and its representative intend to aggressively push the Town to act on its request. If you have a view on this, and based on the public and private feedback, it appears that a broad swath of the island community does, then I encourage you to make your views known to the Town. Mayor Labriola and Council members have said they want to hear from the community and take community views into consideration. That’s what ended up happening with regard to the Andell West project and is now happening with regard to changes to the annexation and planned development ordinances. Their emails are on the TOKI website.
I greatly appreciate everyone’s engagement and consideration.
Date: Sat, Feb 12, 2022 at 10:43 AM
As I referenced in my previous post on this subject below (with corrections), I want to get a bit deeper into what KP is seeking and why they are seeking it, why the Town should not favorably act on KP’s request to amend the development agreement, and how this ties into other pending (or future) development proposals.
KP owns the 5 parcels at issue along Beachwalker Drive between the general store and KICA administrative offices - parcels 8, 9, 10, 11 and the so-called church parcel. KP could develop those parcels now. Nothing is stopping them from doing so. They don’t have to ask either the Town or KICA for anything (other than going through the standard design submission and permitting process). Per the development agreement with the Town, they have vested development rights in each of the parcels other than the church parcel, with is not part of the development agreement.
Why doesn’t KP just go ahead and develop those parcels now with the rights they have? Why come to the Town asking for something? Ah, the multi-million dollar question. They key is that each of those parcels is subject to different zoning classifications under both the development agreement and the Town’s zoning ordinances. Each of those parcels is subject to setback requirements and other restrictions. Simply put, KP (or another developer to the extent the tract is sold) is not able to build what it believes to be most commercially viable under the status quo. This is not about comprehensive planning, open space, curb cuts, or anything similar. It is about maximizing the value of assets, return on investment for their investors. There is nothing nefarious about that objective, indeed their primary obligation is to their investors, not the Kiawah community.
But, let’s not pretend it is otherwise. If they were interested in development that is consistent with the surrounding communities, they could have come forward with a plan for a mix of single family homes and townhomes, perhaps similar to RiverView across the street (which is 34 DUs on about the same acreage as the combined Beachwalker tract) or Oyster Rake or other proximate neighborhoods. Indeed, in a meeting with the KP’s representative, the RiverView POA Board suggested something like that might something workable, but the representative dismissed it out of hand. He stated that he and KP “know the market” better than anyone, and that kind of development just wouldn’t generate the revenues they want. They want tone able to sell as many DUs as possible.
And, the expressed concerns about open space and Design with Nature considerations increasingly ring hollow. If you haven’t done so, I encourage you to stroll by The Cape development. The area was clear cut - a sea-side forest is now gone - not a tree remaining in the center of the parcel. One has to assume that the same thing would be done on the Beachwalker parcels. The comment made by the KP representative on the KICA board was telling - she pointed to a small grouping of trees near the pond that they indicated would remain - the clear implication that everything else would be stripped away so that sweeping views across Pond 1 and the Cougar Point could be created.
But, what is it that KP is actually seeking? The focus has been on consolidation of the parcels, but it’s actually much more than that - KP is effectively seeking SIX changes to the status quo:
Consolidation of all of the parcels into a single tract. They want to get rid of the current parcel lines and accompanying setback restrictions.
Upzoning. They want the highest density zoning classification - which is only entitled on parcel 11 - applied to the entire tract. And, it is important to note that the zoning designations under the development agreement and the Town ordinances are markedly different - the former allows for much greater density that does the Town’s ordinances. That is particularly important with regard to Parcel 11.
Variance. They want to amend the development agreement and get a variance from the Town’s zoning ordinances (with regard to the church parcel) to be able to increase the mass of buildings on the tract. Under the Town’s R-3 zoning, which applies to the church parcel, the maximum density is 4 dwelling units (DU) per building. When the development agreement was entered into, the Town apparently agreed to allow up to 7 DUs per building for lots on parcels covered by the agreement designated R-3. KP proposes to go well beyond the building mass restrictions under both the Town’s ordinances and the development agreement - they want to be able to build with up to 10! DUs for some buildings, and 8 for others. As noted previously, that is inconsistent with the Town Comprehensive Plan.
They want to effectively transfer the commercial square footage and DU vested rights from Parcels 8 and 10 to the area covered by Parcels 9,11 and the church parcel to allow greater density in that footprint.
This is less clear from the informational materials KP’s representative provided at the Town Council meeting, but it appears that the developer wants to have it’s cake and eat it too - that is, retain the ability to build all the DUs that is it seeking as well as to add commercial space.
Finally, they apparently want to add the church parcel to the development agreement. In many respects, this is the most critical proposed change. Indeed, I would submit that what happens with regard to the church parcel is the linchpin for the entire tract. Why? First, it’s in the middle. Second, it has the most frontage along the pond, which is where (at least based on the test case provided by KP) the 50ft, 10 and 8 DU buildings would be cited, with a view opened to the golf course. Third, it is subject to the Town’s zoning restrictions, which are much less favorable for the developer than under the development agreement. Under current zoning, only 4 2 story buildings could be sited on the parcel, with 4 DUs each. Fourth, development rights under the agreement become contractually vested for the term of the agreement. Fifth, the Town’s ability to apply or enforce typical municipal prerogatives is greatly constrained by anything covered by the development agreement. There are also critically important procedural issues raised with regard to the church parcel, which I will come back to.
Regardless of what else transpires, the Town should not add the church parcel to the development agreement. The purpose of development agreements is to provide some certainty with regard to zoning and other related matters involving long-term projects. If a developer is going invest significant capital in a development project, such as building out critical infrastructure, they understandably want assurances that years down the road a municipality is not easily able to change the rules of the game. That’s why state laws, including SC, specifically provide for development agreements between developers and municipalities. Put aside the question of whether the development agreements entered into with the TOKI and KIGR are more one-sided than might typically be the case with more typical governance structures and established municipalities, the fact is that long-term planning and new capital investment are not relevant with regard this parcel or this tract. And, the clock is ticking on the development agreement - it expires in less than 4 years.
So, back to the question of why KP wants all of these changes? Simply put, it would allow them, or a third-party if the tract were sold, to commercially develop the tract in a way that would not be possible but for each one of the sought changes to the development agreement and the Town’s zoning map. It would confer potentially millions of dollars of benefit to the developer by lowering construction costs and allowing the developer to build and site massive buildings and amenities most favorably from a sales and marketing standpoint. Makes all the sense in the world from KP’s perspective, but enabling that makes no sense from the Town or community perspectives.
But, what a minute. What about the fact that the developer is currently “entitled" to build 97 DUs on those parcels and they might build ONLY 90 if they are able to combine the parcels and get everything else asked? And, that they would agree to reduce the number of curbs cuts? Isn’t that better for the community? Sounds seductive, but I urge everyone to please, please, not buy into that narrative.
The 97 DUs “entitlement” is simply a math calculation - it represents the maximum number of DUs (or commercial square footage) allowed per acre based on the zoning classification. But that does not factor in set back requirements, storm water management requirements, whether all the acreage is highlands, open space or Design with Nature requirements, accessibility, amenities, or, most importantly, commercial viability.
Let’s parse that with regard to each of the parcels….
The starting point is parcels 8 and 10. They are not technically, practically or commercially developable. Without belaboring the 27 reasons why, if KP wants to build a road into the hill right after the main gate and construct a bridge over Pond 1 that could handle heavy equipment to build 4 1BR cottages, the porches of which would literally be sitting on the golf cart path of the 1st hole on Cougar Point, well, go right ahead with that…The main point is that any development rights with regard to those parcels are with regard to those parcels - the commercial square footage and DU counts are not transferable to the rest of the tract. Unless the Town concedes that.
Parcel 9, which formally housed administrative offices and is now a parking area next to the general store. Vested rights to that parcel is just 10 DUs, and that is without commercial development. The KP representative’s Alt. 1 Base Entitlements slide show two 2-1/2 story buildings with 5 DUs each (which I believe contemplates one DU in the half-story of each building). No 50ft buildings in close proximity to the KIP and Beachwalker intersection. And, one of them is sited right next to the back of the general store and it’s dumpster. I’ve been back there a few times - not very attractive. And a pool complex right along Beachwalker. But, the main point is that a maximum of 10 DUs can be built there. But, KP also indicated that it is interested in an office building across from KIRE that would house KP and KIC staff. If they were to do that - which is permitted - then you wouldn’t have 10 DUs there.
Then there is the church parcel, discussed above, which is slightly larger than parcel 9 at a little less than 2 acres. As noted, this parcel is not a part of the development agreement, thus the Town’s zoning ordinances apply to it. A significant portion of that acreage is not developable for DUs due to it’s panhandle configuration - that would be needed for a road to access the property off of Beachwalker. Nonetheless, the Alt 1 Base Entitlements slide indicates that four buildings can be squeezed into a cul de sac area. Let’s assume that is true. Under the Town’s R-3 classification, there is a limit of four DUs in a multifamily building and such buildings are restricted to two stories. So, that would seem to mean a max of 16 DUs on that parcel.
So, under the status quo, it appears that there would be a maximum of 26 DUs in the upper portion of the tract, closest to the KIP and Beachwalker Drive intersection and overlooking the pond and golf course - with just 2 and 2-1/2 story buildings.
That brings us to Parcel 11, which is clearly developable. It’s a little less than six acres. And, for reasons that I don’t understand, when the development agreement was entered into, the Town agreed to a much higher density for that R-3 parcel that otherwise allowed under the Town’s zoning ordinance, including four multistory multifamily buildings with up to seven DUs per building, rather than four. The Alt 1 Base Entitlements slide shows that, conceptually, the developer could squeeze in eight Timbers/Cape-size buildings into that parcel - so, 56 DUs. Let’s assume that is true, and, that among other factors, all that acreage is highlands (I would note that the back portion slopes down 8-10 feet towards the pond area). Think about that for a moment - as many residential buildings as Timbers and the Cape COMBINED on HALF the footprint. Very high construction cost condo buildings with no ocean access, no view (other than looking at each other and down on the KICA admin building or Inlet Cove and RiverView), and no amenities in close proximity (the one pool shown on the slide would be 200-300 yard walk from the further buildings). KP knows the market well, so perhaps that is a commercially viable play, but while the construction costs would be just as high as Timbers and The Cape, one would think that sales prices and rents would perhaps be just a wee bit lower…
So, the basic calculus is this - if the Town were to grant all of KP’s requests, it would all but ensure that the tract is developed at the HIGHEST DENSITY possible and with almost no ability on the part of the Town or community to meaningfully impact what actually happens thereafter. If the Town declines to act on the request to amend the development agreement, or denies it, then it may be the case that those parcels are not fully developed, or at least not in a way that would generate the most economic benefit to the developer. But, in the WORST case scenario, were the Town to not accede to the request and the developer pursues it’s rights to build on the separate parcels with all the attendant setback requirements and other restrictions, the community would still be BETTER OFF - with fewer dwelling units and most of the largest scale buildings massed at the bottom and back of Parcel 11, primarily overlooking the KICA offices and away from the KIP and Beachwalker intersection and not looming over Cougar Point. Whether or not there might bei one more curb cut is a complete non-issue from the perspective of surrounding communities - it wouldn’t alter traffic volume a whit. Eliminating one is actually a benefit to the developer as it would mean having to install and maintain another gated entrance.
I had planned in this post to touch upon some of the critical procedural issues that are raised by KP’s proposal, as well, as how the proposed development ties into broader development issues around the island, but this one turned out to be much longer than I had anticipated, so I will address those matters in a subsequent submission. There are a few quite interesting aspects of the development agreement that warrants further discussion. I would note that there is now some urgency on this, as I understand that the developer intends to press the Town to act on its request.
We are interrupting our regularly scheduled and highest rated programming on the iKiawah Discovery channel - “Snark Week” - for one of those annoying PSAs - in this case, a dull discourse on mundane zoning and development matters on Kiawah Island. We apologize in advance for any inconvenience or headaches this may induce, and we will return to more scintillating coverage of electoral machinations immediately following….
So, if you will indulge me, I would like to not so briefly follow-up on the recent presentations by a representative of Kiawah Partners (KP) to the Town Council and KICA board, as well as well as the RiverView and Inlet Cove boards, regarding potential development of the Beachwalker parcels - five separate parcels along Beachwalker Drive and between the General Store and KICA’s administrative offices, and adjacent to Cougar Point and Pond 1.
The punch line first - what KP is proposing, from both procedural and substantive standpoints, is wholly inconsistent with the best interests of the Island community as a whole, and the Town should not agree to the zoning changes and amendments to the development agreement sought by KP. Doing so would confer substantial economic benefits on KP without any corresponding benefit to the community; to the contrary, it would adversely effect the community by enabling high density development that would not otherwise be technically possible or commercially viable.
Why should this particular development be of concern to everyone in the community? Two reasons. The obvious one is with regard to the scope and scale of the proposed development. But, I think the even more important reason why it should matter to everyone, whether you own in Cassique or Ocean Park, is what KP’s proposal represents with regard to the balance of equities and interests on the island now and going forward. This has implications for not just development of the Beachwalker parcels, but also Parcel 1, Andell West, Mingo Point, and potentially the trace across from the Cougar clubhouse.
First, what KP is notionally proposing to develop on the Beachwalker parcels is wholly out-of-scale with surrounding communities and inconsistent with the Town’s Comprehensive Plan* (which is in the process of being updated). To put it in perspective, what KP is proposing would be nearly the scale and density of The Cape and Timbers COMBINED, on a somewhat smaller footprint. At the entrance to the island. With multiple 50ft buildings that would literally tower over everything surrounding it. [* “low density development is consistent with the plan”…”tall, massive buildings are inconsistent”]
Aesthetics aside, high density development of the Beachwalker parcels, along with Parcel 1, would put increased pressure on already stressed infrastructure - roads and amenities. KP’s proposals for Beachwalker and Parcel 1 would result in potentially 170 new dwelling units, plus the 79 at The Cape.
We all know how congested the intersection of Beachwalker Dr. and KIP is now - just imagine what it will be like then. With all of the Beachwalker parcels and half or so of the Parcel 1 units flowing onto Beachwalker Dr., the back-ups at the 3-way intersection will only get much worse. Further exacerbating the problem - the KP representative acknowledged that the multi-family units they plan to build are more likely to be investment/rental properties. That means continual traffic turnover associated with renters, and everything that comes along with that, e.g., bicycle company drop-offs and pick-ups, and cleaning services. Plus, the construction traffic at the outset. It will all increase crowding at island amenities. As the KiCA board has noted, there simply isn’t any land left available upon which to build new amenities - well, other than the Beachwalker parcels…..
Development of the Beachwalker parcels as proposed would result in the elimination of 10 acres of critical wildlife habitat - one of the few remaining open spaces on the island, particularly in West Beach. It would mean increased human and wildlife interaction, on the roads and in neighborhoods.
Development of the scale proposed would dramatically and adversely impact quiet enjoyment on the island. Buildings of the height and mass proposed would require pile-drivers to set the foundations. The noise and disturbance was bad enough at The Cape, where it was at the end of the island a bit further removed from residential neighborhoods. In this case, the noise would be hemmed in and immediately adjacent to Inlet Cove, Greenslake, RiverView, and Oyster Rake. And, because of the close proximity, there is also the potential for vibrations to cause damage to surrounding homes.
Beyond the substantial issues and concerns about the scope and scale of development of the Beachwalker parcels, I would argue that how the Town handles KP’s request to amend the development agreement it has with KP has critically important implications for the future of governance and development on Kiawah.
Simply put, we are at a governance and development inflection point on the island. Heretofore, the developer basically called all the shots - made decisions unilaterally. That was understood by all. KP and its predecessors had a singular vision and were able to execute that vision with minimal external input on pressure. They invested substantial private capital in building out the infrastructure and amenities on the island. And, what resulted is what we’ve all come to love. Are there some or even many things we might wish had been done differently? Of course. But, on balance, it strikes me that the developer’s stewardship of its asset has been beneficial for all of us. We probably wouldn’t be here otherwise.
Having said that, as with all development projects, there is inevitably a transition in control and responsibility from the developer to homeowners. That’s where we are at now. It can be a bit messy, as we’ve seen. But, the balance of interests and equities has now unalterably shifted. While KP and its successors have and will continue to have substantial assets on the island (South Street Partners owns KP, KIRE, KIC, Andell Inn, Freshfields, and Knight Construction), and it’s interests should be given appropriate weight and consideration, the fact is that KP’s development footprint continues to diminish. More importantly, there really is no further need on the island for private investment capital. TOKI and KICA have sufficient revenue sources to maintain existing infrastructure, and, in the case of the Town (in contrast to other municipalities), there isn’t a need for new revenue to provide public facilities like schools, libraries, and recreation centers. Perhaps a performing arts center on land that may be acquired adjacent to the Municipal Center?? That’s a conversation for another day…
So, while there may be an alignment of interests between the developer and the community as a whole, increasingly those interests may diverge. That is particularly so when the developers interests are in maximizing the value of its current assets, which is understandable, rather than deploying new capital to create new value that benefits everyone. That’s where we find ourselves now. With regard to the Beachwalker parcels, Parcel 1, and possibly Andell West and other projects, there will be a divergence of interests. It is incumbent then on our governing institutions to recognize that divergence and the shift in the balances of interests and equities.
In the case of the Beachwalker parcels, the interests of KP are solely to maximize the value of the land they own. I would do the same if I were in their shoes. But, the only way that can maximize that value is IF the Town agrees to combine the parcels, up zone the entire tract, grants variances to building density restrictions. KP is asking for something that it doesn’t have the right to that it wants, no needs. The Town has ALL THE LEVERAGE. It should use that leverage to act in the best interests of the community, not just one stakeholder. They don’t have to act on the request at all. And, if they do, it should only be to consider development that is consistent with the community interest. And, no, we do not need the ARB to protect us.
Apologies in advance, but in a separate post, I will go into much more detail as to what KP is asking for, how it potentially ties into other development projects, and the substantive and procedural reasons why the Town should not entertain or agree to KP's request to amend the development agreement (and effectively rezone and grant variances with regard to the church parcel).
For now, we return you to regularly scheduled programming…
As a resident and board member of RiverView, which is directly across Beachwalker from the parcels at issue, we would be at least as impacted by the development, if not much more so, as any other constituency. While the RiverView board has not yet taken a formal vote or position, based on our initial assessment, we would likely be strongly opposed to the proposed amendments and consolidation of the parcels unless and until substantially more information is provided by KP, including, but not limited to conceptual plans, traffic assessment, and environmental assessment. While we would not necessarily oppose any development in the area, what is notionally proposed by KP is wholly inconsistent with the surrounding communities with regard to both dwelling unit density and building heights. And, it is difficult to conceive that any further development along Beachwalker is sensible until the myriad safety and traffic flow issues related to the Beachwalker and KIP intersection are addressed.
I appreciate Mr. J’s insightful analysis and need to establish a baseline on what is actually buildable by right under the status quo. I would go further. But to frame this, what KP is proposing, in an area effectively smaller than RiverView (more on that), is to build 3 times as many dwelling units. Apart from the substantial increase in construction traffic (already pronounced as The Cape construction vehicles use Beachwalker) this scale development would entail, the permanent traffic issues involving ingressing and egressing Beachwalker at KIP would be, to put it mildly, problematic.
Back to the status quo. KP is arguing that consolidating the lots would enable a more comprehensive plan for the area blah blah and avoid the possibility (threat?) of 4 curb cuts, one off of KIP and 3 off of Beachwalker (one is already there - the KP parking lot adjacent to the General Store). I walked the entire area this morning. Parcel 8 is practically undevelopable. The idea that there would be road put in off of KIP, immediately after the main gate and cut into the hill to access effectively less than half an acre is frankly laughable. If that is a threat, it is a hollow one. At best, you could put in another small building behind the two existing buildings and provide pedestrian access from the current parking lot, but that’s it. As Mr. Jarosik noted, parcel 10 is also practically undevelopable. The only access, if at all, is off Duneside and given the pond and golf course easement, there is zero economically viable development on that parcel. That leaves 9, 11 and *. I would argue that without consolidation, * would be economically undevelopable. You would have to creat a single long entry road back to an area that would probably be less than an acre and a half. What would be practically buildable in that space? Parcel 9 is currently taken up almost entirely by the parking lot. It is 1.75 acres, but effectively less given the pond at the back and setbacks. It is zone R-2/C. It might lend itself to additional commercial development; not sure how much residential would make sense there. That leaves parcel 11. It is almost 6 acres, although a significant portion of that close to Beachwalker Center is very low lying and may be susceptible to flooding. It’s zone R-3/C and is clearly a developable parcel, but that is just 60 DUs by right, and probably many fewer practically with road, parking, open space, amenities.
So, the status quo doesn’t particularly trouble me. Fine, let KP exercise their development rights as separate parcels and within existing zoning restrictions. Maybe I’m wrong, but I doubt much of it would actually be developed. So, allowing KP’s request would be a significant give at this point, without any corresponding benefit (actually, likely to be more detrimental). If, on the other hand, in exchange for consolidation, KP would develop the combined parcels in a manner more consistent with RiverView, with only single family homes or townhomes (no 4 story multifamily up zoning), create a separate amenity (pool+) for that community, with appropriate setbacks and landscaping/screening along Beachwalker, along with the island bike/pedestrial trail running between the golf course and the development, that might be something reasonable and workable.
But, even with that, we would first need to understand the impact on traffic, on the wildlife habitat, and the timing and pacing of construction, among other things….
Thoughtful Analysis - Transparency - Open Communication