Some Daufuskie Island residents are following an independent streak to take more control over the small barrier island’s services and development.
If the island incorporated as its own town or was annexed into neighboring Bluffton or Hilton Head Island, it could put itself in a better position to apply for grants or renourish its beaches, for example, some island leaders say.
They say the island has struggled for decades to get attention and funding from Beaufort County officials.
“The notion is we get very little from Beaufort County,” said Charlie Small, who leads the Daufuskie Island Council. “Our concern is, at one time, we paid $5 million in taxes (to the county), and what were we getting from that? So we’ve been exploring the possibilities.”
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Those possibilities could include incorporation, annexation or the creation of a special tax district for the island, Small said. The council and island residents will consider later this month whether to hire researchers at Clemson University’s Strom Thurmond Institute to study possible governing options.
The council has not begun raising the $15,000 for the proposed study, so the plans are still in their infancy and subject to residents’ approval, Small said.
The conversation about the island’s governance began in the fall, when federal transportation officials denied a county application for a grant to study ferry service for the island. Predictable, affordable access to the isolated community has long been a contentious point for residents, so island leaders met several months ago with state Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, to discuss options to improve the island’s ability to get grants and services.
“I think there’s a frustration on Daufuskie because I think they feel a lot of times their concerns aren’t being heard, and I know they’re looking for a way to make their voice more meaningful,” Davis said.
Davis said he will meet again with Daufuskie leaders Jan. 26, when the council will consider working with Clemson to study governance.
“Everything is embryonic at this stage,” Small said. “We have to go through the process to put the pluses and minuses together and then take it to the residents of the island.”