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Mayor's Greeting- February 2020

Fri, 01/31/2020

Mayor Pat O'Neil

Dear Island Neighbors,

I hope the unfolding new year is offering great promise for you.

Today, we have only two items, but both deal with matters that might provoke a response of “Shucks!” on your part…for different reasons.


As I note annually, that was how the very down-to-earth New Orleans Mayor Robert Maestri started a conversation with his guest President Franklin Roosevelt, when they tucked into some Oysters Rockefeller at New Orleans’ famed Antoine’s Restaurant in 1937.

You can get some great “ersters”, visit with friends and neighbors, and support our great volunteer Fire and Rescue Squad at our annual February Oyster Roast, 5-8 PM, Saturday February 8, 2020. We won’t likely have any presidents in attendance, although given our early primary, who knows whether you might catch a Presidential candidate or two pressing the flesh and even risking their own flesh trying to open an oyster for their first time. (Fortunately, our first responders who sponsor the event will be available to apply tourniquets if needed.) For more info, go here: The location as usual is the Big Tin/Fish Fry Shack (Station 15 at 1453 Hennessey Street). Tickets are $40 advance, $45 at the door. Advance tickets are available at the Fire Station, Town Hall, Simmons Seafood, and the Harris Teeter by the Isle of Palms Connector. It’s all-you-can-eat oysters (bring your own knife and glove), with other food and beverages for purchase, music, and entertainment for the kids. Proceeds support the invaluable efforts of our volunteer squad. They put in an impressive amount of time (thousands of hours), effort and training into protecting us year in and year out. Much of their equipment is bought with proceeds from this wonderful event. Please come out to support their critical mission!


Quite a bit, apparently.

As I’ve heard from our residents in the wake of the initial plans by Dominion Energy to take out almost 250 Palmettos on the Island. Palmetto trees are such an important part of the Island’s public realm, the state’s image, and the nation’s history. It was from a partly-built fort of palmetto logs at what is now Fort Moultrie that American patriots repelled an attack by the invading British fleet and secured the first such victory in the run-up to the Revolutionary War. That’s how the Palmetto tree earned its place on our state flag, its recognition as our state tree, and its status as an instantly recognizable image of our state.

On January 17, we met with representatives of Dominion Energy to discuss their recently initiated plan to cut down 247 of the Island’s Palmetto trees thought to be potentially hazardous due to their proximity to electric lines. Numerous residents had voiced their dismay at the prospect of losing so many of these venerable (many 40 – 50 years old, or older) trees that define the Island.

We also discussed with the Dominion representatives our concerns about whether the standards Dominion follows for creating tree clearance zones (above, along and below live power lines) should be applied to Palmetto trees. As you know, unlike most trees, Palmettos do not threaten power lines by sending out limbs across, above or into them. They grow up, not sideways. And they don’t lean or sway much in high winds, nor break off.

Also, Palmettos are slow growers. Really, really slow. As in, just a few inches per year. So a Palmetto that is several feet from a live power line today will not be much closer in five years.

At our January 17 meeting, Dominion agreed to immediately stop this cutting program for further study. This pause is to allow Dominion and the Town to re-examine the trees on the list, individually, in order to identify those that might pose the nearest-term safety issues vs. those that do not.

For those trees that do pose the more near-term safety issues, each tree will be assessed to determine the feasibility of transplanting it elsewhere. The Town and Dominion will work out plans for those that can be transplanted, and will also develop plans to address those that cannot reasonably be transplanted. Funding for all of this is yet to be determined…of course.

Next, the Town and Dominion will also identify approaches for those trees on the list that do not pose near-term safety issues.

You can hear yet more on all this by visiting my Jan 21 interview on the matter with Quintin Washington on “Quintin’s Corner” on YouTube:

I appreciate the willingness of the Dominion team to meet about our concerns. Even more, I appreciate their openness to a much more measured approach to managing potential conflicts between the Island’s electricity system and our iconic palmetto trees.

And the many residents I’ve heard from are so right: The Palmetto tree deserves special treatment, ESPECIALLY on Sullivan’s Island!

Please voice your concerns and thoughts on this at every possible opportunity. If you send them to me at the email address below, we’ll forward them to our Town Council and to Dominion:

See ya around the Island!

Patrick M. O’Neil
843 670 9266