January 08, 2020
2019 In Review
The Town kicked off 2019 with a formal flood mitigation adaptation partnership with the College of Charleston to support the research of Lucas Hernandez on coastal resiliency with a focus on sea-level rise.
Biologists and volunteers conducted the 8th annual Sea Islands Christmas Bird Count, which recorded 16,570 individual birds and 155 different species including the first Reddish Egret recorded in the count.*
With a growing population of full and part-time residents and plans for a new five-star resort and conference center, the Town contracted to increase the island’s law enforcement coverage with the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office, which resulted in the assignment of four full-time deputies.
As a part of the Town’s Grow Native initiative, we released an online native plant database to serve as a resource to the community and encourage the use of native plants in landscaping projects across the island to improve wildlife habitats, provide watershed protection, and preserve the island’s ecosystem.
Town Council made changes to the existing beach lighting ordinance to reduce negative impacts on nesting loggerhead sea turtles and hatchlings.
The Town distributed charitable grant funding totaling $150,000 to 20 worthy organizations and allocated State Accommodations Tax Funds to several organizations/projects that help maintain a healthy tourism market for the island.
To ease traffic congestion, the Town initiated the Beachwalker Drive Road Improvement Project, which added a right turn lane to Beachwalker Drive where it approached Beachwalker County Park and relocated the bike path.
Town Council passed an ordinance restricting the distribution of certain single-use items by businesses to protect our waterways, marine life, and environment and promote positive environmental change on our island for generations to come.
The Town joined in partnership with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, the Community Association, and the Conservancy to raise funds to support the continuation of the Northern Recovery Unit Loggerhead DNA Project. This project would have likely shut down without generous help from donors.
Biologists announced that Kiawah’s historically healthy bobcat population had been declining due in part to a recent rise in mortality rates. Following the discovery that one bobcat died due to consuming rat poisons, it caused the community to reexamine the way we use pest control. Consequently, the decline in the island’s top predator naturally revealed an increase in our deer population, and the community chimed in on this issue.
Hurricane season was relatively quiet. Still, it didn’t pass us by entirely without Hurricane Dorian, which resulted in oversized debris island-wide (20,500 cubic yards) totaling approximately $700,000 in removal costs.
A special edition of Town Notes was published, which focused on island development and the existing development agreements, what they entail and how they have evolved.
Wrapping up the year, Town Council hired new town attorney Joseph Wilson as well as made revisions to the existing short-term rental ordinance. The changes incorporate a combination of measures to better regulate the operation and impact of short-term rentals on the community. Newly added resources will provide property owners detailed information on the rental presence on the island to include a rental location map, 24-hour hotline, and an online reporting form to report problems quickly. Furthermore, we increased the number of code enforcement officers to extend patrol into the evening and respond to any complaints after hours. Lastly, the Town contracted with Outdoor Spatial Design to develop a plan to refresh and improve the landscaping along the parkway.
* An earlier version of this article stated it was the first reddish egret documented on the island but it was the first recorded in the Christmas Bird Count.