The Town of Kiawah Island created the below resources in order to provide whole and accurate information regarding the Town’s development agreements and to correct misinformation related to planned growth on the island.
If you have a question related to the Town of Kiawah’s development agreements that is not addressed in the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), please email Stephanie Monroe Tillerson, Town Administrator, at email@example.com.
Town of Kiawah Island Podcast: Mayor Labriola Discusses The Cape Project, Development Agreements
Town of Kiawah Island History + Evolution, Full Text
Town of Kiawah Island Past E-Newsletters:
Message From The Mayor 5/2/22(Historical Overview of the Dwelling Unit Cap)
Message From The Mayor 6/29/22
Message From The Mayor 7/6/22
Town of Kiawah Island Development Agreement Documents:
2013 Amended and Restated Development Agreement
1st Amendment To 2013 Development Agreement
2nd Amendment To 2013 Development Agreement
3rd Amendment To 2013 Development Agreement
Town of Kiawah Island History + Evolution, Abbreviated
In 1974, the Sea Pines Company developed a master plan for Kiawah Island. The plan was part of the Planned Development District (PPD), which, among other changes, reduced the number of approved dwellings from 12,000 single-family homes to 7,000 dwelling units.
In 1988, a group of Charleston families and investors purchased the original Kiawah Island Company’s remaining assets. That same year, the town was incorporated as the Town of Kiawah Island and as part of this initiative, all land use controls and regulations were maintained.
In 1989, The Kiawah Island Company sold existing resort facilities to the Landmark Land Company, which later filed for bankruptcy. Eventually, its assets were bought by the company now known as Riverstone Properties, owned by Bill Goodwin.
From 1988-1993, the Kiawah Island Company made strides to balance the resort uses with the growing residential community, which led to significant reductions in overall density and the introduction of The Beach Club for property owners.
In 1994, the Town of Kiawah Island and Kiawah Island Company entered into the first Development Agreement with Kiawah Partners, which replaced the entitlements in the original Planned Development District. The Agreement established new parameters for use, density, building height, setbacks, open space, etc. The allowed number of dwelling units was again lowered from 7,000 to 5,600.
In 2005, the Town and Kiawah Island Company entered into the second Development Agreement with Kiawah Island Company, which updated development limits within new neighborhoods, reconfirmed standards for neighborhoods developed since the 1994 agreement, and eliminated the entitlement of 325 hotel rooms and added 50 single-family homesites to Captain Sam’s Spit. Both the 1994 and 2005 Development Agreements established a comprehensive approach to land use standards between the Town of Kiawah Island and Kiawah Island Company, which promoted an orderly approach to growth.
In 2013, the Kiawah Island Company sold its remaining properties to South Street Partners and an associated investment group. The 2005 Development Agreement was updated in the 2013 Amended and Restated Development Agreement, which is currently in force.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Town of Kiawah Island Organizational Structure:
- Does the ARB function independently from the TOKI?
- Yes, the Town is a municipality. The ARB is a private entity created by the master developer.
- Who approves the Site Plan for a proposed commercial development?
- The Town and the ARB have two separate review processes independent of each other in which both entities approve a site plan. The Towns Planning Manager reviews proposed commercial developments via the Town’s site plan review process for consistency with zoning and land use regulations and entitlement provisions in the Development Agreement. The site plan review process involves various entities and other government agencies. The ARB has its independent review and site plan process that they approve. However, the ARB review process ensures specific zoning and land use regulations and entitlements are consistent with the Town ordinances and regulations. This occurs through coordination via the Town’s site plan review process.
- Does the ARB have exclusive approval of a proposed site plan?
- No, the Town has a site plan review process that involves various entities and other government agencies in the site plan review process. The ARB has a separate (internal) site plan review process that gives them exclusive authority to approve based on its rules and regulations.
- Does the Town feel it needs additional professional support?
- No, the Town uses a variety of experts in planning to assist staff, such as traffic engineers and land use professionals, and land use attorneys.
The Cape Project:
- Did the ARB make an “error” in computing the lot coverage for The Cape project?
- No, it is the Town’s position that the ARB interpreted the language used in calculating lot coverage consistently with previous beachfront projects and in a manner that is reasonable and commonly used.
The calculations themselves are not in question, but rather the definition of “highland” in the ARB standards. First, ARB has exclusive jurisdiction to interpret those standards and the definition of “highland” as used in those standards.
Second, ARB has interpreted “highland” to mean all area above mean high water. Under this interpretation, the development is within the 33% standard adopted by ARB.
Third, this interpretation of “highland” is a reasonable one. The South Carolina Attorney General has adopted it, and it is used frequently in other contexts, including the Town’s own ordinances.
Fourth, the other definition of “highland” that has been claimed by some, is the land above the OCRM Baseline. Nothing in the ARB standards or the Town’s ordinances adopts the OCRM Baseline. They do adopt the OCRM Critical Line, but that is for marsh front property and is simply not the same thing as the OCRM Baseline, which applies to beach front property.
The Town’s own density standards for multiunit development allows 60% of coverage based on the entire lot. There is no reference to highland in the Town’s density standards. So, even under the Town’s standards, this development would be approved because it is under 60% of the entire lot.
- Is the language used in computing the lot coverage consistent with existent documents from the Development Agreement, Town Ordinances, and Design by Nature?
- Unfortunately, there can be questions on interpreting the referenced documents, but the ARB has consistently applied the lot coverage language.
- Did the contractor remove more trees than were approved?
- Yes, the ARB stated at the April 5 Town Council meeting those 50 saplings were removed as an “unapproved design change.”
- Was the owner contacted, and actions were taken?
- Yes, the ARB contacted the owner, and the owner and the ARB are working through a final landscape plan to mitigate the “unapproved design change.”
- Has the ARB and Kiawah Partners violated the Development Agreement?
- No, it is the Town’s position that no error has been made and no breach of the Development Agreement.
- Has the term “Highland” been interpreted correctly?
- Yes, the term is used in several documents and has been used correctly based on calculations of lot coverage.
Captain Sam’s Spit:
- What is a preliminary plat and why was Sam’s Spit considered a “Site Specific Development Plan?”
- A preliminary plat is a development plan describing the types and density of uses for a specific property, and the preliminary plat, known as Capt. Sam’s Spit, is a site-specific development plan under the State Vested Rights Act. Approval of a preliminary plat “vests” the landowner with the rights set out in the approved plat. However, approval does not give the landowner a vested right to develop those lots. Thus, for instance, a change in the Town’s setback ordinances, including a setback that would make the lot unbuildable without a variance, could still be enforced with regard to the platted property.
- Why did the Planning Commission approve an annual extension for the land known as Captain Sam’s Spit?
- On July 6, The Planning Commission approved an annual extension request for the approved preliminary subdivision plat for lands of KDP II, LLC & Kiawah Resort Associates, LP. – Cape Charles (Captain Sam’s Spit). This extension request for the subject approved preliminary plat now grants a one-year extension which expires on July 6, 2023.
- This extension does not grant approval to build homes or roads or grant other permits for the Developer to begin construction; rather, it grants them additional time to July 6, 2023.
- The South Carolina Vested Rights Act of 2004 amended the State Planning Enabling Legislation by requiring local governments to include a provision in their zoning and land development regulations ordinances to provide for the vesting of development rights under specified conditions. The Act established a deadline of July 1, 2005, for local governments to come into compliance.
- What is a Vested Right?
- A vested right is the right to undertake and complete the development of property under the terms and conditions of a site-specific development plan or a phased development plan that has been approved by a local government, even if the regulations of the jurisdiction change in a manner that makes the approved development plan no longer in compliance. The vesting provision applies to any site-specific development plans, which are defined as:
A development plan submitted to a local governing body by a landowner describing with reasonable certainty the types and density or intensity of uses for a specific property or properties. The plan may be in the form of, but is not limited to, the following plans or approvals: planned unit development, subdivision plat, preliminary or general development plan, variance, conditional use, or special permit plan, conditional or special use district zoning plan, or other land use approval designations as used by a county or municipality.
- What happens next with Captain Sam’s Spit?
- The original preliminary plat that was approved in 2015 provided the beginning stages of the land development process by platting the boundaries of the existing entitlements (50 lots) for Captain Sam’s Spit. Subsequent to the approval of a preliminary plat, the Developer would be responsible for producing conditional and final plats for Town approval. Before the approval of conditional and final plats, road plans and infrastructure needs, such as water and sewer for future access to the proposed development, will need to be provided by the Developer and approved by the Town. Several remaining approvals would be required of the Developer for any development to take place on the property. As is abundantly clear from the Supreme Court’s rulings, the Developer will also have to seek approvals from the State.
- Has the Town taken steps to deal with the traffic problems confronting the residents of Kiawah?
- In 2021, the Town contracted with Kimley-Horn, a Planning and Design consulting firm, to complete a Comprehensive Kiawah Island Parkway Intersection and Corridor Study (“the Study”). The Study considered the development of remaining parcels along Beachwalker and future development beyond the Town limits. In March of this year, these findings were presented to the community at the Town Council meeting. The final study was presented to the Town Council at its regularly scheduled June 7, 2022, Town Council meeting. The Study results indicated that additional development of current vacant parcels along Beachwalker Drive would not significantly exacerbate an existing traffic concern based on projections. The proposed intersection improvements will improve traffic flow at the Kiawah Island Parkway and Beachwalker Drive intersection. Furthermore, during the early planning stages for the Cape, the Kiawah Island Community Association and the developer entered into an agreement to assist with the disbursement of traffic for a portion of Parcel 13 through Southern Pines Ln/Duneside Ln. This arrangement was part of the approval process for the site plan review of the Cape. Kimley-Horn recommended an intersection improvement plan to the Town Council, which was approved, and the project is currently under design by Kimley-Horn.
- Has the Town taken steps to monitor traffic on and off the Island?
- Embedded in the Development Agreement is a requirement of the Town to take traffic counts on the Bridge and Parkway three (3) times per year. The traffic counts will evaluate the existing traffic conditions during the summer peak and during time periods on each side of the peak season. Each traffic count will be conducted for a two-week period. Traffic counts will be conducted during the first two weeks of June (June 1-14), the second and third week of July (July 8-22), and the last two weeks of August (August 17-31) at each of the intersections along the Parkway to key intersections along Governor’s Drive.
- Is the developer responsible for any mitigation if the traffic counts exceed the guidelines in the Development Agreement?
- Yes, there are provisions in the Development Agreement that would apply, if the Development Agreement is active.
Future Development Plans:
- What is Andell West?
- Andell West is a 300-acre parcel located in unincorporated Charleston County and is currently zoned for residential uses. In fall 2021, Riverstone submitted an annexation request to the Town of Kiawah Island, asking for 82 of the 300 acres to be zoned for a mixed-use planned development that would have included both residential and commercial uses. While Riverstone has withdrawn its request to the Town, it is anticipated to submit a new, scaled-back request to Charleston County to rezone just 22 acres of the property from R-4, Residential to a planned development with proposed commercial uses similar to Freshfields Village. This decrease from 82 to 22 acres is due to the removal of the residential component, which was inspired by public input. This proposed development will be heard by the Charleston County Planning Commission during an upcoming meeting. If approved, the Town will work closely with Riverstone to ensure proper infrastructure is in place to support safe and efficient traffic flow. In fact, this spring, the Town conducted a Kiawah Island Parkway traffic study, which helped determine infrastructure needs for future development impacts along the parkway. We welcome any additional feedback you have on the project and will continue to provide updates as they are available.
- Is the Town committed to protecting the natural beauty of Kiawah?
- Yes, all members of the Council and staff are committed to ensuring the environment is protected.
- Are we getting close to the end of development on Kiawah?
- Yes, the Town has detailed the remaining entitlements to Kiawah Partners in a document published May 2, 2022. In addition, the Kiawah Island Golf Resort provided an overview of its plans during a presentation last month to the community by Roger Warren. Finally, the proposed plan for a portion of the Andell Tract has just been announced, which is not located within the Town limits of Kiawah but adjacent to Freshfields Village. But these are large developments that will take many years to complete.
- Where is Parcel 13 located, and what is the future use of Parcel 13 Lot 1?
- See map showing all three parcels comprised of Parcel 13. At this time, the Town has not received any plans from the developer for Parcel 13 Lot. 1.
- What is the intent of the former Inn site behind Cougar Golf Clubhouse?
- The Resort owns that parcel. The future plan is for another hotel. Additional questions should be directed to Roger Warren, President, Kiawah Island Golf Resort
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