Sullivan’s Island votes to take legal action against controversial maritime forest settlement

SULLIVAN’S ISLAND, S.C. (WCBD) – Sullivan’s Island Town Council on Tuesday voted in favor of hiring an attorney in an effort to overturn a controversial settlement

The settlement would allow the periodic thinning of portions of the island’s maritime forest, which advocates say is necessary to maintain a view of the beach. Those in opposition worry about the biodiversity of the island.

In Tuesday’s council meeting, members voted 5-1 to hire an attorney to ask for a judicial review of whether the settlement is legal under South Carolina law.

Attorney and former federal judge William Wilkins will represent the town.

Wilkins previously reviewed the agreement and found it “unenforceable,” saying in part:

“[The settlement] is invalid because (A) its provisions constitute an improper restriction of the legislative/governmental powers of successor Town Councils, (B) its provisions constitute an improper delegation and/or divestment of the legislative/governmental powers of the Town, and (C) its provisions unfairly, unreasonably, or improperly restrict the proprietary functions of the town.”

He continued, saying “as a result, provisions of the settlement agreement are unenforceable in law or contract.”

Town councilman Justin Novak commended the decision, saying “As we are trustees of the legislative powers vested in us by our constituents and have a duty to preserve and protect those powers, the only prudent course of action is to seek such a determination.”

Sullivan’s Island for All is a group working to save the forest. Member Karen Byko said that the decision is “a huge step in the right direction,” though she acknowledged it is not yet a victory.