Important information about a new DHEC letter dated December 8
To All Seabrook Island Property Owners,
As I am sure many of you will recall, there have been a number of posts about the new proposed beach “baselines” and “setback” lines that were published by the South Carolina Department of Health Environmental Control-Ocean and Coastal Resource Management division (short form name: “DHEC-ORCM”).
The purpose of this post is to inform everyone about a new letter SIPOA’s counsel received on December 11, 2017 (it is dated December 8, 2017), that gives affected property owners and any other interested citizen the opportunity to request a review of certain matters that I will discuss briefly below.
There has been a new development, and a new December 26, 2017, deadline may apply to certain property owners.
IT IS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THAT SIPOA CANNOT REPRESENT YOU LEGALLY FOR THE IMPACTS THAT ANY DHEC-ORCM ACTION MAY HAVE ON YOUR INDIVIDUAL PROPERTY. THIS NOTE IS ONLY FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES AND TO ALERT YOU TO A MATTER THAT MAY AFFECT YOUR PROPERTY. IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR INDIVIDUAL PROPERTY YOU SHOULD CONTACT YOUR OWN ATTORNEY.
DHEC-ORCM sent out a formal notice in September 2017 announcing that they intended to establish new beach baselines and setback lines for all the coastal communities in South Carolina. This notice included a map that showed the current baselines and setback lines, and the proposed new lines.
The importance of these lines is that they set boundaries on or near the beaches that limit where property owners can build. The baselines are generally farther from the shoreline and the setback lines are closer to the shoreline.
This is generally how the beach lines work:
- If your property is behind the baseline (that means farther from the shoreline than the baseline is), then you do not have to get permission from DHEC-ORCM to build a house or other structure like a boardwalk.
- If your property is between the baseline and the setback line, then you must get permission from DHEC-ORCM to build a new structure, or to remodel, repair or replace any structure that currently exists.
- If your property is in front of the setback line (that means closer to the shoreline than the setback line), then you cannot build any new structure, or remodel, repair or replace any structure that currently exists.
What happened to properties on Seabrook Island as a result of the newly proposed DHEC-ORCM beach lines?
- Many properties that were not beachfront were not affected at all
- Some properties (for example, much of Pelican Watch) actually had baselines and setback lines that were proposed to move “seaward” (this means that the lines actually moved closer to the shoreline).
- Some properties (for example, some of the Beach Club Villas, some portions of the Club property at the Pelican’s Nest and the Ocean Club pool areas, and some houses in the Oyster Catcher area and some other oceanfront homes) were either between the two lines and in some cases in front of the setback line.
What can a property owner who is affected by these proposed changes in the lines do?
- DHEC-ORCM has a comment process and an “appeal” process that provides an opportunity both for property owners who are interested or affected, to make a complaint about, seek some other form of relief about, or challenge, where the proposed lines should be.
- In general terms, a property owner who is affected by the change, or a citizen who is interested (for example, conservationists) and who wants to make a complaint, seek some form of relief, or challenge the proposed lines in some way, has to file a comment or appeal within a certain period of time.
What did OCRM do back in November and why was important?
- In early November, DHEC-ORCM, in response to public objections (by SIPOA, the Town of Seabrook Island and others), initially extended the comment period to April 6, 2018, to provide more time for affected and interested persons who comment on our challenge their proposed lines.
- Unfortunately, DHEC-ORCM apparently did not take into account the SC law that prohibits seaward baseline movement after December 31, 2017.
- As you may recall, SIPOA’s attorneys noticed this problem, and as a result, in early November we advised all Seabrook Property Owners that if the proposed lines on their property actually moved SEAWARD, they should file an appeal with DHEC before November 19, 2017, to preserve their rights. If affected or interested persons did NOT file such an appeal, then they would lose all rights to hold or challenge the new seaward moving lines forever as of December 31, 2017.
So, what is this new December 8 letter about?
- DHEC-ORCM has now apparently realized the concern that SIPOA and others had about the December 31, 2017deadline for the SEAWARD moving lines.
- As a result, the new letter says that DHEC will allow property owners and other interested persons to file an appeal that can either (a) seek to preserve the right to have the lines move seaward, or (b) make a claim that other proposed lines that now move landward should actually move seaward.
- HOWEVER, in order to preserve the right to pursue such a claim, the new DHEC-OCRM letter, which is dated December 8, 2017, requires that all persons who want to preserve their rights MUST file an appeal with DHEC-ORCM WITHIN 15 DAYS OF DECEMBER 8, 2017.
- The DHEC letter has an attachment, which is included with this notice, that tells everyone how to file the appeal. There is a $100 filing fee that must also be paid, and the appeal and the filing fee must be RECEIVED BY DHEC ON OR BEFORE 5 P.M. ON TUESDAY DECEMBER 26, 2017. (This is more than 15 calendar days from December 8, but the 15th day after December 8 (which is December 23) falls on Saturday, and Christmas day is Monday, December 25, so the next business day is Tuesday, December 26, 2017.)
What you as an affected property owner or interested citizen can do:
- Read the letter from DHEC-ORCM and the attachment to that letter than describes the appeal process
- Determine if you are an affected person, and if so, whether you want to file an appeal either to preserve proposed seaward moving lines, or to contend that proposed lines that affect you should actually be seaward moving lines, or to take some other position
- Consult with your lawyer about what to do
- If you decide to file an appeal, make sure that the appeal is RECEIVED by DHEC, along with the filing fee of $100, by not later than 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, December 26, 2017.
-Ed Houff, SIPOA President