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Beaches: With delay in new lines, hopes for return to 2011 boundaries
By Charles Swenson
The state’s decision last week to extend the comment period on proposed beachfront jurisdictional lines until April will give coastal communities the opportunity to lobby the legislature to preserve the current lines, Pawleys Island Mayor Bill Otis said.
A month-long comment period was due to close Monday. The new lines were due to take effect by the end of the year.
“Based on feedback received during the original 30-day comment period, DHEC feels it is appropriate to give property owners and other interested parties more time to meet with department staff, understand the methodology used to set the jurisdictional lines and bring the department any additional information for consideration,” the state Department of Health and Environmental Control said in a statement Friday.
At issue are two lines that define the state’s jurisdiction: the baseline, which defines the crest of the most seaward dune; and the setback line, based on an estimate of erosion over the next 40 years. On the southern end of Pawleys Island and portions of Garden City, the lines extend to second-row lots. The lines have been adjusted in the past, but under state law this is the last time the baseline will ever move seaward. Construction is still allowed in the jurisdictional area, but it requires special permits similar to those required for docks and walkways.
At the south end of Litchfield Beach, 29 houses that are currently behind the jurisdictional lines will be seaward of the proposed lines. Many are over the 5,000-square-foot limit that the state law sets for building or rebuilding in the jurisdictional area. Based on state data, Otis estimated that the lines moved seaward on 600 lots and moved landward on 19,500 lots.
“Everything is now into 2018, and the whole objective in 2018 is to get the legislature to change this law,” Otis said. He would like the state to keep the lines as they were in 2011, something that was recommended by a committee he served on that reviewed the state’s beach management law but not adopted by the legislature. The DHEC board was initially expected to take up a request from Gov. Henry McMaster to delay implementation at a meeting today. Instead, the agency staff announced the delay.
“That’s a decision of staff and legal counsel,” state Rep. Lee Hewitt, a former DHEC board member, said. “I appreciate DHEC and all they’ve done in realizing the importance of the impact this had on property and property owners along the coast.”
The town of Pawleys Island launched an effort to make property owners aware of the changes, but elsewhere along the coast, it took a couple of weeks for awareness to grow. “I’ve got legislators calling me from Greenville, Spartanburg and Columbia,” Hewitt said. “I can only imagine what [McMaster’s] been getting.”
DHEC will begin to adopt final revised beachfront jurisdictional lines in May 2018 with all lines published by Dec. 31, 2018. Existing jurisdictional lines will remain in place until final revised lines are adopted.
The decision to adopt revised lines after Dec. 31, 2017 affects owners of property where the proposed baseline moves seaward of the existing baseline. DHEC wants those property owners to contact the department prior to Dec. 4 by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 843-953-0200 to receive information on requesting a board review. DHEC will also attempt to reach those owners by mail.
“I really wasn’t sure after having read the information they put out last Friday exactly what it said,” Otis said. He contacted DHEC and is now confident nothing will change this year. “No property owner who’s negatively affected by this proposed line will have to do anything between now and Dec. 31,” he said.
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