Isle of Palms Council Candidates Forum – Facts vs Fiction.

I would, first of all, thank all of you who took the time to come to tonights Council Candidates Forum. For those of you who could not make it, it will be available via the Island Eye Facebook page or website.

Tonight you will have a lot of information thrown at you from a number of candidates, your daunting task will be trying to decipher the facts from fiction. I’m sure that all of the candidates will be asked about Parking, Beach Erosion, Drainage & the Marina, if not more. I will try to address each one of these as we may not have the time we need with the number of candidates addressing all the questions within the allotted hour.

PARKING

When I previously served on City Council, I was fortunate enough to work on and implement the city’s current parking plan. While the current plan, Plan C, has worked to alleviate some of the islands parking issues, there still is room for improvement. Throughout this campaign, you may have heard about the Plan C parking plan which is currently in place. Two candidates right now, one Council and one Mayoral, (Council Candidate & Mayoral Candidate) are trying to take credit for implementing this plan. The only difference between the previous plans and the current one is Plan C allowed for free parking along all the public right of ways for everyone, no matter where you are driving from.

Implementing the managed beach parking had an initial expense of $250,000 and has an annual average expense of $80,000. Visitors utilizing the free parking areas impacts our Public Works, Fire, Police and contracted beach services. These additional expenses on top of the annual $80,000 cost have no offsetting revenue and therefore is an expense covered by taxpaying residents. The city needs to offset these annual expenses through a paid parking system. Technology is now readily available to make paid parking a reality and for the City to recoup the costs of those expenses that the residents now have the burden of paying.

BEACH EROSION

The beach is our biggest asset and needs to be maintained. But, the total expense of constant beach maintenance and re-nourishment should not be the burden of Isle of Palm residents only.

When I previously served on the council, we passed a Beach Preservation Fee Fund which allows us to utilize a portion of the Accommodations Tax to be directed towards beach maintenance and re-nourishment. These are revenue sources received from visitors who stay in overnight accommodations throughout the island. But we need to look for other sources to fund beach maintenance and re-nourishment, Accommodations Tax only will not cover future expenses. Implementing a paid parking program throughout the island and applying a portion of those revenues towards the Beach Preservation Fund will help cover the expense of constant beach maintenance and re-nourishment.

Throughout every beach season, thousands of visitors come, visit, park for free and utilize the beaches. The beaches that will need to be maintained and re-nourished. The beaches that residents of the Isle of Palms currently carry the burden of the majority of expenses to maintain. This needs to change and can be done through paid parking for visitors.

DRAINAGE

During my previous term on council, we implemented a contractual agreement with a contractor to maintain and clear the drainage ditches throughout the island. One of the problems we have are residents who use those ditches as dumping ground for their yard waste and lawn clippings. Not only do we need to educate the residents on the importance of keeping the ditches clear, but increase the frequency that contractors clean out the ditches.

The city also designed and initiated a drainage infrastructure improvement program from 45th ave to 57th ave when I previously served on the council. While only a portion of the drainage infrastructure has been installed and working, the balance of drainage is currently underway and should be up and be functioning soon.

We now need to look to other areas of the island that need the same kind of attention to reduce the amount of standing water that is becoming so problematic. Areas along Palm Blvd, Forrest Trail & Sparrow are a few that the next council will need to develop a plan for water collection and outfall to reduce the amount of standing water as a result of heavy rains. The city knows how to get it done, they now need the people in office to push it through.

MARINA

The Marina definitely has become a hot topic throughout this campaign. We haven’t seen the island so divided on an issue since the referendum on the expansion of the Recreation Center or the construction of the Isle of Palms Connector. There is so much misinformation published, it’s hard for anyone to truly understand what is fact or fiction. So here are the facts.

The first thing to point out is that there are many leases to the marina. Marina Joint Ventures, Marina Outpost, Morgan Creek Grill and Tidal Wave Water Sports. The biggest problem you will hear about is the first two, Marina Joint Ventures and the Marina Outpost. There are suggestions that the Marina operations were given a 30-year no-bid lease. I’ll explain it and let you decide. In 2008 the city put out to bid the Marina Store lease and in 2009 the city put out to bid the Marina Dock Operations lease. In both circumstances, only 3 bidders responded to the requests. The current tenant of the Marina won the bid to both leases. So implying that there was a no-bid lease offered to the tenant is false.

The initial term of the Marina Store lease was for two years, starting February 1st, 2008 ending January 31st, 2010 with three, five-year options to renew ending in 2025. The initial term of the Marina Dock Operations was for 5 years, starting October 1st, 2009 and ending on January 31st, 2015. The lease had two additional five-year renewal options also ending in 2025. So to imply that the marina was given a 30-year lease ending in 2045 is false.

The city was about to be tasked with a number of items that needed to be replaced in the marina that was the responsibility of the City, in discussion with the the marina tenant, the city ask what they would need to make themselves responsible for replacement of those items, less the bulkhead, docks and fuel tanks. They responded with a longer lease so that they knew they would be able to recover those costs prior to their lease expiring. The city consulted with the city attorney to give the tenant an extension on their lease, releasing all expenses that the city would have normally been responsible for. The current tenant has incurred, so far, $1,500,000 in repairs, maintenance, and improvements.

Some will argue that the Marina lease should be similar to the Charleston City Marina lease. Here are the terms of that lease.

Page 3: Basic management functions by the tenant shall not include dredging, dock removal, dock construction, exterior dock construction, wall removal or wall reconstruction.

Page 3, Subsection 2: Tenant shall have no obligation to repair or replace any part of the ramp or marina walls. Landlord shall repair or remove any part of the ramp or marina walls that becomes a hazard to life or property, or whose physical condition interferes with the normal operation of the Marina, at the Landlord’s expense.

Page 38, Subsection 5.1: Landlord shall maintain the parking lot in use as a parking lot at all times during the term of the lease. Landlord shall regularly perform such maintenance with respect to the parking lot as is required in order to keep the parking lot in a safe working and aesthetically pleasing condition, and shall keep the parking lot clean and free of litter and debris at all times. The tenant shall perform any maintenance or cleaning of the parking lot which landlord as wither failed to perform or is likely to fail to perform.

Page 40, Subsection 5.3: Landlord acknowledges that both parking and traffic flow within the leased premises parking areas and in and out of the leased premises have significant impacts on tenant’s ability to market the marina not only to slip tenants but also to ramp users. Landlord shall fully implement the marina parking plan according to its terms.

While those who say that the Isle of Palms Marina Lease should mimic that of the City of Charleston Marina lease has not read the City of Charleston Lease. I maintain that Isle of Palms has a stronger financial lease benefiting the City of Isle of Palms than does the the the City of Charleston. The City’s leases with its tenants explicitly describe who is responsible for what at the Marina site. The Tenants are responsible for ALL of their areas, including their parking areas.

Again, Thanks for coming tonight, and do not hesitate to contact me if you would like to see any of the information that is stated in this post

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Ryan Buckhannon announces bid for Isle of Palms City Council

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089I am pleased and honored to announce my candidacy for Isle of Palms City Council. I previously served on city council but decided to take some time off to focus on getting my triplet boys through high school and off to college. Now, that they all have started their first year of school, with one at the College of Charleston, one at the University of South Carolina and one at the Citadel, I feel that I can, again, work for the citizens of this community. My boys were born here and it gave my wife Sonya of 24 years and myself a unique perspective on “Island Life” with a family and how we adapted not only to raising triplet boys but how I adapted as a councilman to meet the needs of our community as we all grew together.

During my previous term on city council, I gained an understanding of the complexities of city government including its capabilities and limitations which will allow me to hit the ground running and start working on day one. While on the city council, I approached every budget session and spending allocation from the Dave Ramsey school of thought, if you didn’t have the money already saved for a purchase, it didn’t get purchased. I ended the city’s expensive practice of leasing vehicles. Leasing large vehicles ultimately cost the taxpayers more due to principle AND interest. Instead, I initiated a policy that would put money into a sinking fund for those large ticket items that we knew we had to replace. Not only did I create sinking funds for replacement vehicles, but for future expansion projects like the recreation center ballfields and lights. I was able to save all the money needed to replace both baseball fields and all the lights at the recreation center, WITHOUT BORROWING! These are just examples of a couple of sinking fund programs that I started that the city now has adopted as a policy. During this, we were able to increase the City’s Fund Balance from $3.1 million to $8.5 million & increase the City’s Tourism Funds from $900 thousand to $4.3 million. So, I believe in saving for future known expenses and unknown expenses. That is why I believe that we continually need to put money into our disaster savings account. As it has been said before, it’s not a matter of IF but WHEN we will be hit again by a natural disaster and we should be prepared when that time comes.

I believe that government transparency is paramount and using social media platforms are invaluable to our residents and visitors to get that information out. I have always pushed for the city to have more transparency and have an increased social media presence. They are getting there, but there is always room for improvement. As a small business owner, our social media platform is integral to our business and the same should be true for our city. During my term on the council not only were we able to improve our city’s web presence but pushed for our council meeting videos to be posted to the city’s page. I believe that we can go further and start to live stream all the city’s meetings and public hearings, this is something that could be done now.

What good is a community if that community in which you live is a place you have a hard time calling home? There are many issues before us that will affect our community’s quality of life in the years to come. They include increased traffic congestion from an ever-growing Tri-county area, the resulting need to improve our island wide parking plan and the need to address our drainage problems along our roads and ditches are just a few. As a councilmember, I helped to draft and create the current parking plan, voted to limit the number of people in short-term rental houses and worked to facilitate the drainage project from 42nd Ave to 57th Ave. But more can be done. Quality of life issues is not only dealing with current and potential problems we face but finding ways to make those things we currently enjoy even better. As Chairman of the recreation center, I oversaw the expansion of our community center, a project that was brought in on time & on budget. I initiated the recreation center’s Fast-Start sports programs for children 3-5 and the city’s dog park. As Chairman of the Public Safety committee, I initiated the change to the city ordinance to allow golf cart parking on the 25th & 23rd beach access paths. These are a few but more can be done. I don’t believe in kicking the can down the road when things need to be accomplished. It’s time to elect those who are ready to pull up their sleeves, get to work and make a difference.

If you would like to more information about me or have questions, I can be reached at http://www.ryanbuckhannon.com or ryan@ryanbuckhannon.com