New panel to address
the Catch-22 of growth
By Andy Brack
S.C. Statehouse Report
NOV. 24, 2002 - - South Carolina continues to attract thousands
of new residents, particularly along the coast. They move here,
among other things, to enjoy the quality of life in the Palmetto
But as more people move in, there's more development - - buildings
and schools, roads and bridges. In turn, there are escalating stresses
on the state's environment and quality of life.
It's the Catch-22 of coastal growth.
Fueled by tourism, retirees and service industries, growth along
the coast is an increasingly important economic engine for the whole
state. From 1980 to 2000, population along the coast increased 43
percent, compared to 24 percent elsewhere in the state, according
to a September study by Clemson for DHEC.
Not only are more people moving here, but they're doing a larger
share of business in services, trade, finance, insurance and real
estate on the coast, the Clemson study showed.
"The coast has grown because the environment is attractive,"
said Chris Brooks, deputy director of the Department of Health and
Environmental Control coastal resources office.
Over the next 18 months, DHEC's new citizen-based Council on Coastal
Futures will try to figure out practical ways to accommodate growth,
environmental protection and the coast's quality of life.
What makes growth management tricky is too much management will
hurt an increasingly important part of the state's business economy.
Too little management may cause such a degradation of the coast's
quality of life that people wouldn't want to leave New Jersey for
a Southern version.
"We can't have this huge population explosion next to sensitive
waters and expect those waters not to change," said Chris Brooks,
deputy DHEC director for coastal resources. "If the state is
going to progress and do it properly, growth is going to have to
be managed properly."
The new council's panelists range from developers to environmentalists.
At first glance, they may appear to be of such diverse constituencies
that one would think they would not be able to develop a forward-thinking
But that's what many said 15 years ago before a similar citizens'
panel of developers and environmentalists pushed through the nation's
toughest beachfront management laws.
The new panel, led by Beaufort County lawyer Wes Jones, is packed
with people like John Settle III who bring a lot of viewpoints to
One might not automatically put Settle, one of Charleston's leading
real estate brokers who makes a living by selling new and old homes,
in the "environmentalist" column. But he's got a keen
appreciation of the outdoors. Not only does he hunt and fish, but
his wife Jane is a former water quality expert for DHEC.
"I have lived and breathed the protection of our estuarine
environment," Settle said. "I want it to stay as close
to pristine as possible.
"But we can't put up a sign and say you can't come to Charleston
or Myrtle Beach. You have to put restrictions on it and monitor
it to ensure we're doing the best we can for the resource."
Panelist Jimmy Chandler, a Georgetown environmental lawyer, is
hopeful - - if council members can get beyond rhetoric and get into
"We will have to quit talking past each other and start talking
to each other," he said.
Brooks expects the council to do just that.
"I think we can reach consensus for some improvement,"
he said. "All we have to do is realize everyone is in this
If panelists realize people may quit coming to South Carolina if
it spoils its coastal resources, "any businessman today is
going to see the economic sense of doing this right," Brooks
The new panel will meet for an organizational session in December
and get to work in January. A report is due by May 2004.
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