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Town resolution banishes any doubts over Corps project

Posted on October 18, 2023

In the face of lawsuits and accusations of “secret” arrangements, Pawleys Island Town Council is considering a resolution that details the town’s partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers on beach renourishment projects.

“The purpose of this resolution is to document previous Town Council approvals of these Corps documents associated with this partnership and to ratify the prior execution of these documents,” Town Administrator Dan Newquist said at a council meeting on Monday. “In addition this resolution reaffirms the town’s future commitment to the Army Corps’ Coastal Storm Risk Management program.”

The town sought easements from 113 property owners for a beach renourishment project planned and funded by the Corps of Engineers. The town ended up doing the work itself, but a partnership with the Corps will allow the agency to replace sand lost to Hurricane Ian last year and pay pay half the cost of future renourishment projects for the next 45 years. 

Easements were signed by 110 of the owners. The other three sued to stop the town from condemning easements on their beachfront property. The Corps needs those easements before conducting the storm repair.

Barry Stanton, a Columbia lawyer represents himself and the other two property owners, in those suits. He has criticized the town  during the public comment period of council meetings and through letters to the editor saying the town’s agreement with the Corps was invalid.

Stanton and the other owners say the easements will allow public access to their properties. Stanton has also accused Town Council of lying about signing an agreement with the Corps.

According to the proposed resolution, council discussed, or voted on, the partnership with the Corps during meetings on Jan. 14, 2019, Aug. 12, 2019, and Aug. 8, 2022.

“The resolution is basically listing in one place the history of council approvals and the agreements with the Army Corps regarding the beach project,” Mayor Brian Henry said. 

The resolution would also “reaffirm” the town’s commitment to partnering with the Corps on the beach project and ratify all previous votes and agreements.

“The purpose of this resolution is just to magnify what we have already agreed to with the Corps?” Council Member Sarah Zimmerman asked.

“Remember several months ago when I said to everybody, ‘don’t you all agree we want to be in on the Corps project and you all said of course?’” Henry said. “This is a way to formalize that as opposed to just saying it.”

Zimmerman also asked Newquist if the resolution was something the Corps asked for.

“No,” Newquist said. “They’ll receive a copy of this so they’re aware.”

During its August meeting, council questioned Dudley Patrick from the Corps of Engineers about changing the easements. Further investigation showed that is not possible.

“There’s really no flexibility in changing or updating the easements,” Henry said. 

“There never has been,” Zimmerman added.

Newquist also clarified what he called a “miscommunication” by Patrick at that meeting. In response to a question from Council Member Guerry Green, Patrick said an easement is only for the life of a project.

Newquist told council this week that perpetual and public access requirements are not just limited to periods of construction or project inspection.

Council was scheduled to give first reading to the resolution on Monday, but deferred it because two members – Green and Rocky Holliday – were absent.

“I think it’s prudent that we wait until all five – the full complement of Town Council – votes on this,” Henry said. 

The next council meeting is Nov. 13.

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