Letter to the Editor

in Letters to Editor/Voices by

Lack of representation is unfair to residents

I have attended several of the last few Sea Island Coalition meetings concerning the future of Lady’s Island. While I applaud their efforts, I wonder if it is an exercise in futility. 

Lady’s Island is about twice the size of Manhattan. Let’s think about that a minute. So, putting maps in front of individuals, giving them crayons and markers, and telling them to give locations and selections for multiple categories such as parks, police stations, mixed use, roadways, etc., is a bit daunting at best. It is like trying to eat an elephant all in one bite. Even though there are multiple meetings, the format is the same. 

I hear rumors that the city of Beaufort had a plan for a center city at the intersection of Sams Point and Sea Island Parkway, but it has never been presented. 

Beaufort city officials show up for the meetings, get face time, then step aside as the groups discuss each area and issue. If there really is a plan, why are they not facilitating each group and informing them? Are we just being appeased to think that we have input? 

Let’s face it, we have no voting rights to determine the city of Beaufort elected officials who are making these decisions. So far, it appears that we are an easy “stepchild”tax base. 

I agree with Bill Rauch (former mayor of Beaufort from 1999-2008) when he says, “It is past time for the city to step up for Lady’s Island … it is time for the city to begin providing some leadership.”

Rauch had it correct when he said that property taxes, business license taxes and prepared food taxes should be figured out and then subtracted from that sum the city’s reimbursement to Lady’s Island/St. Helena Fire District. What is left is roughly what the city is putting into its pocket from Lady’s Island.

Now, add to the above what the Lady’s Island Business and Professional Association said,  “Lady’s Island can anticipate continuing to be a blended community with most of the commercial portion in the city of Beaufort and most of the residential portion remaining in the unincorporated portion of Beaufort County.”

I expect that the unincorporated portion (residential) will continue to be lost in the shadow of Hilton Head and Bluffton. That said, it appears that the city of Beaufort will continue to “cherry pick” the better tax portions of Lady’s Island and leave the rest. 

Talking with one member of the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, he expressed how frustrating it is to deal with calls and who has jurisdiction in this “checkerboard” annexation approach. I expect it is the same for all first responders. Do delays occur because of this mess? Who knows?

So, the city of Beaufort will take most of the commercial businesses, determine business license taxes, property taxes and prepared food taxes, all of which will be passed on to the consumers on Lady’s Island in one way or another. 

Businesses on Lady’s Island have no voting rights for the city officials who are making the decisions for them ( unless the owners live in the city of Beaufort), and, of course, neither do the unincorporated residents. 

The bottom line is pretty clear.  

We have “Annexation and Taxation without Representation” on Lady’s Island. I believe there was a tea party in Boston for the same reason.

Yes, Bill Rauch, “it is time for the city to step up for Lady’s Island,” or do we need a Lady’s Island Tea Party?

John Stevenson