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Trying to pick a health insurance plan can be a chore for anyone. For many people, just mentioning the word “open enrollment” sends shivers down the spine. It seems like there’s always a nagging feeling that you’re wasting money, choosing a plan with poor in-network care, or both. One would think that health insurance gets easier as you approach retirement age, but the truth is that picking an initial Medicare coverage plan can be daunting.

Unfortunately, the confusing process of signing up for Medicare causes many seniors to forego healthcare coverage altogether. After all, Medicare enrollment can involve several federal agencies, including the Social Security Administration (or SSA) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (or CMS).

At Senior Care Insurance Services, our passion is guiding seniors through the confusion of Medicare. That way, they can enjoy retirement with peace of mind knowing they are protected and ready for life after 65. We work with dozens of insurance companies, giving our clients the chance to choose a plan that best fits their lifestyle.

We choose to design our senior insurance plans with a focus on optimal benefits structure, lower costs, and personalized service. Some independent insurance agencies see their aging customers as nothing more than a financial transaction waiting to happen. In contrast, we treat each of our clients with respect and dignity as we help them navigate the confusing waters of Medicare. Combined with individualized service, we help older Americans make well-informed decisions about insurance. Whether you’re in need of senior Medicare Supplement Plan insurance in cityname or simply have questions about signing up for Medicare, our team is here to help.

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What is Medicare?

If you’re approaching the golden years of your life, it’s important you understand what Medicare is if you don’t already.

Medicare is a federal health insurance program reserved for people older than 65 who have worked full-time for at least ten years. The Medicare program is paid for by a combination of worker payroll tax, premiums paid by Medicare enrollees, and the U.S. government.

There are four parts of Medicare:

This type of Medicare is free for most U.S. citizens. Medicare Part A helps older adults pay for care in a nursing facility, hospital visits, and some forms of in-home senior care.

This tier costs around $100 per month. It covers different outpatient services like lab tests, preventative care, doctor’s visits, mental health care, clinical trials, and some forms of surgery.

This type of Medicare is most often called Medicare Advantage. This tier of Medicare allows seniors to choose health plans provided by insurance companies like Senior Care Insurance Services. Individuals who use Medicare Advantage commonly use Medicare supplement plan insurance to help pay for health care costs that Original Medicare won’t cover, like coinsurance, deductibles, and copayments.

Sometimes called “PDPs,” these plans add drug coverage to standard Medicare, some Medicare Private Fee-for-Service Plans (PFFS), some Medicare Cost Plans, and Medicare Medical Savings Account Plans (MSA).

The amount of money you pay for your health care depends on several factors, including:

At Senior Care Insurance Services, we offer a number of health insurance solutions for seniors. Two of our most used services include Medicare Advantage plan insurance and Medicare supplement plan insurance.

Senior Medicare Supplement Plan Insurance in Sullivan's Island

Sometimes called Medigap, the purpose of Medicare Supplement Insurance is to help fill in “gaps” that might not be covered by Original Medicare. You can think of a Medigap policy as a supplement for your Original Medicare benefits.

Private companies like Senior Care Insurance Solutions sell this type of insurance right here in South Carolina. While Original Medicare will pay for much of the cost associated with health care services you need, it may not cover all of your expenses. Generally, Medigap policies do not cover costs stemming from eyeglasses, private-duty nurses, dental care, hearing aids, or long-term care.

Depending on the Medicare Supplement Plan that you choose, it may cover out-of-the-country medical services when you travel abroad. Assuming you have Original Medicare coverage, your policy will cover its share of Medicare-approved health care costs. Once your Original Medicare coverage reaches its limit, your Medigap policy will pay its share of the fees.

Our Medigap policies are drafted to meet your specific needs, and can help cover remaining health care costs such as:

Deductibles

Copayments

Coinsurance

Important Information About Senior Supplement Plan Insurance

To dispel some confusion, you should know that a Medigap policy is not the same as a Medicare Advantage Plan. The latter helps you receive Medicare benefits, while the former supplements the benefits you obtain through your Original Medicare plan. As you begin to explore Medicare Supplement Insurance Plans, keep the following important information in mind:

As you begin to explore Medicare Supplement Insurance Plans, keep the following important information in mind:

  • To qualify for a Medigap policy, you must first have Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B.
  • Payments on your Medicare Supplement Insurance Plan will be made to the private insurance company that you choose, like Senior Care Insurance Services. These payments are made every month and are paid in addition to the monthly payment you make for Medicare Part B.
  • If you are the holder of a Medicare Advantage Plan, it is illegal for an insurance company to sell you a senior Medicare Supplement Policy. If you plan on switching back to an Original Medicare plan, you will be able to purchase a Medigap policy.
  • If you have health problems as you age, your standardized Medigap policy is guaranteed to be renewable. So long as you pay your monthly premium, your insurance provider cannot cancel your policy.
  • Medigap policies only cover one person. If you have a spouse or family member that would like coverage, they must purchase a separate policy.
  • You may only buy a Senior Medicare Supplement Plan from an insurance agency that is licensed to sell them in your state. Senior Care Insurance Solutions has been licensed to sell Medigap policies in South Carolina for years. We have helped countless seniors get the Medicare coverage they need and continue to do so to this day.
  • In the past, Medigap policies were able to cover costs related to prescription drugs. As of January 1st, 2006, prescription drug coverage is not available on Medicare Supplement Plans. The best way to get coverage for your prescription drugs is to join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, often called Part D. Contact our office today to learn more about paying premiums on Medigap and Medicare plans.

For many people, the best time to buy senior Medicare Supplement Plan Insurance in cityname is during the six-month Medigap Open Enrollment Period. This period starts the day you turn 65 years old, so long as you hold Medical Insurance (Medicare Part B). Generally, during the enrollment period, you get more policy choices and better pricing. Once the enrollment period is over, you may not be able to purchase a Medigap policy. Contact Senior Care Insurance Solutions today to determine if you qualify for a Medicare Supplement Insurance Plan.

Senior Medicare Advantage Plan Insurance in Sullivan's Island, SC

A Medicare Advantage Plan is a kind of Medicare health coverage designed to provide seniors with all their Part A and Part B Medicare benefits. Many Medicare Advantage Plans will often include coverage of the following:

In addition, most Medicare Advantage Plans give seniors coverage for their prescription drug needs. When you enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan through Senior Care Insurance Services, your Medicare benefits are covered through your plan and will not be paid for by traditional Medicare.

How Medicare Advantage Plans Work

Sometimes called “MA Plans” or “Part C,” Medicare Advantage Plans are considered an “all in one” solution to Original Medicare. Senior Medicare Advantage Plans are only offered by private companies that are approved, like Senior Care Insurance Services. Seniors who enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan are still on Medicare. However, these individuals enjoy bundled plans that give seniors the benefits of hospital insurance (Medicare Part A), medical insurance (Medicare Part B), and sometimes drug coverage (Part D).

Medicare Advantage Plans are very popular because they cover all Medicare services and make life a little easier for seniors who have trouble understanding the nuances of Medicare.

When you contact Senior Care Insurance Solutions to choose your Medicare Advantage Plan, ask your agent about Medicare prescription drug coverage. Unless you already have drug coverage (Part D), you should seriously consider Part D coverage to help reduce costs associated with prescription drugs. You may also want to consider a Medicare Supplement Insurance Plan to help fill gaps in coverage that Original Medicare will not cover.

Medicare Advantage Plan Insurance Rules

Medicare works by paying a set amount of money to the companies that offer senior Medicare Advantage Plan insurance in cityname. That money is used to pay for the care services that you need. Because Medicare Advantage Plans are different, you should expect out-of-pocket costs to vary depending on the plan you choose.

Different plans have different rules for how you receive services, such as:

  • If you must go to facilities, suppliers, or doctors that belong to your Advantage Plan for non-urgent and non-emergency care.
  • Whether you must get a referral to see a specialized doctor

Companies that offer Medicare Advantage Plans must follow strict rules, which are set by Medicare and can change every year.

Paying for Your Senior Medicare Advantage Plan Insurance

How much you pay for your Medicare Advantage Plan varies and depends on a few different factors. In most cases, if you need a kind of medical service, you will need to rely on the doctors and providers in your plan’s service area and network to pay the lowest amounts. In some cases, if you choose to use a service outside of your plan’s network of coverage, you may have to pay out-of-pocket.

We encourage you to contact our office today to learn more about Medicare Advantage Plans, how they work, what your options are, and how often you will have to pay out-of-pocket, if at all.

The Senior Care Insurance Services Commitment

Since our company was founded, we have led the insurance industry by providing our clients with the most valuable, helpful insurance solutions available. We are fully committed to our current and prospective clients by:

  • Choosing to focus on personalized, one-on-one service. When you work with our team, know that we will always design your health insurance plan with your best interests in mind.
  • Listening to your specific needs.
  • Responding to all inquiries and questions promptly and with a friendly attitude.
  • Providing you with the best customer service in the senior health insurance industry, whether you have questions or are ready to move forward with a Medicare plan.

Our mission is to help give seniors the best Medicare assistance available so that they may understand the Medicare process and make an informed health coverage decision. We have the knowledge, skills, and experience to assist anyone interested in Medicare. Our personal goal is to become a lifetime resource for our clients and give them greater confidence in choosing their insurance plans.

Latest News in Sullivan's Island

Sullivan’s Island Town Council votes to seek legal review of maritime forest settlement

SULLIVAN’S ISLAND — Town Council affirmed it would seek an independent lawyer to review the town’s rights under a settlement agreement that cleared the way to remove parts of a maritime forest.The council voted 4-2 during a Sept. 29 special meeting in favor of seeking a legal review of the lawsuit, part of a decadelong issue centering around a conserved forest on the island’s southern half of its beachfront side.The maritime forest, once scrubland, has developed over the years into a mature thicket of tr...

SULLIVAN’S ISLAND — Town Council affirmed it would seek an independent lawyer to review the town’s rights under a settlement agreement that cleared the way to remove parts of a maritime forest.

The council voted 4-2 during a Sept. 29 special meeting in favor of seeking a legal review of the lawsuit, part of a decadelong issue centering around a conserved forest on the island’s southern half of its beachfront side.

The maritime forest, once scrubland, has developed over the years into a mature thicket of trees and wetlands growing outward toward the Atlantic Ocean.

It sprouted on slowly accreting land, a side effect of jetties that stop ocean sand from drifting away from the island — a rarity in South Carolina, where most islands are eroding at various rates.

Four residents living next to the forest filed a lawsuit in 2010 against the town and its council, alleging the government had violated their property rights.

Among their chief complaints: The overgrown, unruly brush harbored vermin and mosquitoes, limited breeze flow and presented a fire hazard.

A local ordinance permitted these residents to trim their bushes to be no less than 3 feet tall, but the town had denied their applications to do so, the suit alleged.

The issue wouldn’t be decided until 10 years later. On Oct. 2, 2020, following private mediation talks, the council voted 4-3 to settle the lawsuit, thus greenlighting the plan to thin the forest.

The agreement reached between the plaintiffs and the town stipulated several tree species and shrubs would be cut depending on their location in the forest, some with diameters as large as 17 inches.

Opponents to the settlement maintain the green space must be conserved and nature should be left to run its course. Many of them had attended the most recent council meeting, requesting members bring the settlement back before a judge to clarify certain parts.

More than two dozen people gathered at the Sept. 29 special meeting, spreading out to follow social distancing guidelines. Some stood along the crowded room’s back wall, eager to speak.

But there was no opportunity for public comment; the council entered executive session almost immediately after the meeting began, much to the chagrin of residents.

Council members debated for around an hour before coming to a vote.

Members Scott Millimet, Justin Novak, Mayor Patrick O’Neil and Gary Visser voted in favor of hiring outside legal counsel while Greg Hammon and Kaye Smith voted against. Councilman Bachman Smith was not present.

Susan Middaugh, who has lived on Sullivan’s since 1980, said she was thrilled with the council’s decision to seek a legal review of the settlement.

Middaugh serves as a board member with Sullivan’s Island For All, a local conservation group staunchly opposed to the settlement. Her main issue is the manner in which the lawsuit was settled, she said.

The four council members who had supported settling weren’t forthcoming during their campaigns on how they felt about preserving the maritime forest, Middaugh said.

But two of them were ousted during the May election, their seats replaced with council members who both oppose the settlement.

Now, conservationists such as Middaugh are hopeful the current council, with its 5-2 majority, will consider any legal recourse that could be taken to amend the lawsuit.

One piece of the settlement the conservationists have pushed against is a “good faith and fair dealing” clause, which stipulates parties to the agreement can’t hinder the cutting work.

A lawyer whom a group of conservationists hired to examine the settlement raised a key question: Would this current agreement unfairly “bind” the council from making future public policy decisions?

“We’re trying to get (Town Council) to at least get a judicial review,” Middaugh explained. “It doesn’t directly challenge the settlement, it’s like a judicial review of the terms of the settlement to see if it’s legal.”

Debate over how to best manage the maritime forest has sharply divided this close-knit island community. The two sides — those for and those against the settlement — fundamentally disagree over many of the issues at play.

Vermin and mosquitoes exist everywhere on the island, and the brush doesn’t present the kind of fire hazard a pine forest would, for example. Breezes are blocked primarily because of large homes stacked several stories high and built next to one another, Middaugh said.

Conservationists also believe the forest serves as an important protective barrier against potential storm surges. But one pro-settlement resident said if a major hurricane hit Sullivan’s Island, the dense vegetation wouldn’t stand a chance.

These people are also adamant the forest is a tinderbox — just think back to the 2009 Myrtle Beach fire, one said.

Both sides, however, can agree the crux of the issue isn’t really about rats, or wildfires, or getting a good breeze. It’s about the view.

The town had placed the maritime forest into a land trust in 1991, after Hurricane Hugo devastated much of the island. The trust protected the forest from being built up, which pleased conservationists as well as ocean homeowners; both the trees and their beach view would be protected.

But the forest grew over time, with little oversight from the town, said pro-settlement residents.

Some people took matters into their own hands, removing nuisance vegetation themselves. The group of four who filed the 2010 lawsuit against the town and council “went about it the right way,” said Kimberly Brown, a Sullivan’s resident since 2015.

Two of the plaintiffs, Ettaleah and Nathan Bluestein, lost the ocean view they had after first moving to the island, along with the ability to even go through their yard, Brown said.

“He has no path to the beach, he’s got no view, he’s got no breeze,” she said, adding the Bluesteins were just trying to get back what they once had.

Brown said she understands conservation-minded folks like Middaugh, and identifies as conservation-minded herself.

“We all are. Everyone loves trees,” she said, adding none of the pro-settlement folks were “looking to wipe everything.”

But the town had promised residents living along the maritime forest it would always maintain the land, along with their ocean views, Brown said.

“The town kind of went back on their word, and that’s what this whole thing is about,” she said.

Some residents felt frustrated following the council’s vote, as it meant more stalling before a final decision would be reached, despite the fact the lawsuit was settled nearly a year ago.

“We had come to an agreement, we mediated, let’s honor it,” Brown said. “If everybody kept going after something when they couldn’t get what they wanted, it’d be kind of lawless.”

The council adjourned after taking its vote without discussing any other business or elaborating on next steps in seeking guidance from an outside attorney.

Commentary: Sullivan’s Island’s accreted land is hardly a ‘marvel of nature’

I have lived on Sullivan’s Island for 25 years. I’m a physician, and consider myself to be an advocate of the environment and historical preservation.In fact, I own the only property on the island that has been recognized and awarded the Carolopolis award by the Preservation Society of Charleston.When I read Brian Hicks’ column Wednesday, I wondered if he’d ever stepped foot in the island’s accreted land.He described the maritime forest as a “public park and a marvel of nature,” ...

I have lived on Sullivan’s Island for 25 years. I’m a physician, and consider myself to be an advocate of the environment and historical preservation.

In fact, I own the only property on the island that has been recognized and awarded the Carolopolis award by the Preservation Society of Charleston.

When I read Brian Hicks’ column Wednesday, I wondered if he’d ever stepped foot in the island’s accreted land.

He described the maritime forest as a “public park and a marvel of nature,” but I challenge him or anyone else to stroll off of the public beach paths that cut through it.

If invasive species are your thing, then what you find may be a “marvel,” but be sure to bring your snake boots and thick clothing. The vast majority of the accreted land is nothing like the picturesque photos routinely published in The Post and Courier.

There is no mention in the settlement agreement of a plan to “chop down much of the island’s maritime forest,” as Mr. Hicks describes it. The agreement — copies of which are readily available through the town’s website and other public sources — spells out exactly what vegetation will be removed and what will remain.

I have been a witness to the accreted land battle on the island that has lasted for nearly 30 years. The self-described “islanders” who have orchestrated this 11th-hour effort to upend the settlement agreement are united only in their opposition to any reasonable land management.

Some even have gone so far as to physically block machinery that was widening the Station 16 beach path after a girl was assaulted on it in 2007.

The accreted land issue really should have been settled right after that horrible event.

Her haunting testimony — “I thought ... this is it, nobody can hear my screams ..., I’m all alone” — still resonates as a warning that the unnatural overgrowth has gone too far.

The settlement agreement that was proposed in the regular course of town business, and supported and voted on by the prior elected Town Council, is a reasonable compromise.

The alternative is many more years of additional lawsuits and hundreds of thousands (or perhaps millions) of dollars in legal fees borne by taxpayers.

Mr. Hicks applauded Mayor Pat O’Neil for making the analogy that relying on the town attorneys’ advice was essentially like getting a second opinion from the same doctor.

Well, if you’re a hypochondriac and have seen the same doctor for 20 years, and yet insist that the doctor is now wrong, you’re going to have to foot the bill if you want all the tests repeated.

That’s exactly the case here. The insurance company is going to deny the care, and we’re going to pay our second-opinion lawyer hundreds of dollars an hour and a hefty retainer.

Up until now, an insurance policy has paid the town’s legal fees, which are in a million-dollar range to date.

Now, William Wilkins’ legal fees will be paid by the town directly.

Which, of course, means that we the taxpayers will pay.

It is important to note that protected land grants and town-owned rights of way on the mayor’s side of the island — the waterway side — have little if any restriction imposed on shrub and tree removal.

Despite what the “conservationists” say, the settlement is a reasonable compromise that serves our island well. It should be implemented by the town without further shenanigans or delay.

The only thing the opponents want to preserve is conflict and hostility, and their vitriol has poisoned our island community.

Mr Hicks’ opinion seems nothing more than an echo chamber fed to him by the usual suspects.

Steven Poletti is a Sullivan’s Island resident.

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Commentary: History of Sullivan’s Island maritime forest explains the present dispute

Just about any good story has an “other” side, and such is the case with Chauncey Clark’s recent commentary claiming that a group of Sullivan’s Island residents is stopping progress on the island by “debating yet again the settled accreted-land lawsuit.”His claims that those of us who want to save the maritime forest are using division and fear as political tools deserve special examination since Mr. Clark is a candidate for mayor in the May 4 election.As is often the case in Charleston, a bi...

Just about any good story has an “other” side, and such is the case with Chauncey Clark’s recent commentary claiming that a group of Sullivan’s Island residents is stopping progress on the island by “debating yet again the settled accreted-land lawsuit.”

His claims that those of us who want to save the maritime forest are using division and fear as political tools deserve special examination since Mr. Clark is a candidate for mayor in the May 4 election.

As is often the case in Charleston, a bit of history is needed to understand the present. The debate Mr. Clark refers to is about the more than 190 acres of beachfront property the town transferred to the Lowcountry Land Trust for preservation.

The public ownership of such a valuable resource on a residential barrier island is unique to Sullivan’s Island because the military owned much of the island from the 1700s well into the 20th century, when it transferred ownership to the state, which then transferred it to the town.

Fast forward to 1991, when the town placed restrictions on the deed that required the property to be kept in its “natural state” except that the Town Council could authorize some cutting for views.

The controversy over the amount of cutting quickly arose, with an Oct. 13, 1994 article in The Post and Courier that describes the town as wrestling with the question. Another ran on Jan. 26, 1995, reporting: “Sullivan’s Island residents proved last week that they could reach a compromise on the issue of cutting vegetation in the town-owned dune property. … The compromise was a give-n-take with victories for both sides.”

Since that compromise, the cutters have continually demanded more, and the town has allowed more. But in 2010, two adjacent landowners sued to allow essentially unlimited cutting. The lower court ruled against them, but then the S.C. Supreme Court ordered additional review.

Two new Town Council members were elected, both of whom were less than transparent as to their views on the land-trust issue. Last year, three council members who are adjacent landowners joined with one a real estate agent to approve, on a 4-3 vote, a settlement of the case that allows for massive cutting. They refused citizen pleas to postpone a final vote until residents could register their view in the May 4 election.

The adjacent landowners have falsely argued that this settlement was necessary to prevent the Supreme Court from ultimately ordering the entire area in the land trust clear-cut and the town held liable for enormous damages for denying the adjacent landowners a view. But all the Supreme Court ordered was that the lower court conduct a trial to determine the intention of the town and the Lowcountry Land Trust in creating the trust.

Anyone with the slightest familiarity with the land trust’s creation knows the intent was for a natural area. There is overwhelming evidence to prove this, including newspaper articles, Town Council minutes, consultant reports and testimony. There is no evidence to support the plaintiffs’ position that the intent was to maintain the vegetation at the 3-foot level it was when the trust was created. The town would have won the lawsuit.

While Mr. Clark claims his opponents won’t compromise and follow democratic principles, these charges are true as to him. His crowning anti-democratic action was to include in the settlement agreement a provision that no future Town Council could alter the cutting regime without approval of the plaintiffs to the lawsuit — who want unlimited cutting.

Mr. Clark’s sweeping allegations simply are not supported by the facts.

Billy Want has been an environmental lawyer for more than 40 years, working for the U.S. Justice Department, in private practice and as a law professor. He is a resident of Sullivan’s Island.

Two issues take center stage ahead of Sullivan's Island election

SULLIVAN'S ISLAND, S.C. (WCIV) — It’s almost election day on Sullivan’s Island and campaign signs are everywhere. There’s a mayoral seat and a few council seats up for a vote.Mayor Patrick O’Neill is running for re-election. He’s challenged by current Mayor Pro Temp Chauncey Clark. O’Neill served on town council for 20 years and has served as mayor for six.“It’s been sort of contentious on a number of counts,” O’Neill said on Friday. “What I’m running...

SULLIVAN'S ISLAND, S.C. (WCIV) — It’s almost election day on Sullivan’s Island and campaign signs are everywhere. There’s a mayoral seat and a few council seats up for a vote.

Mayor Patrick O’Neill is running for re-election. He’s challenged by current Mayor Pro Temp Chauncey Clark. O’Neill served on town council for 20 years and has served as mayor for six.

“It’s been sort of contentious on a number of counts,” O’Neill said on Friday. “What I’m running for is to continue the pattern of stable, participatory and forward-looking leadership that I’ve tried to implement on the island for the past six or more years.”

Paid parking is one of the big issues, but that’s not the biggest sticking point. Residents like John Winchester plan to vote on Tuesday. He’s lived on the island for 16 years and said overall he’s pleased with current leadership, but not what happened with the maritime forest settlement. Last year, the town settled a decades-long lawsuit over management of the maritime forest last year. In a 4-to-3 vote, council approved cutting more land on beach front property than originally proposed.

“The overall major issue clearly is the protection of the maritime forest. I think most people you ask on the island they would tell you that,” Winchester said. “It’s special on a barrier island, the fortune of having a maritime forest between the ocean and the island, that’s a real rarity and we’re thankful that we have that, so we want to see it protected.”

O’Neill said he remains opposed to the maritime forest settlement and believes it’s what will drive people to the polls.

“It was very disappointing. What it did and how that agreement was approved by council, it disappointed a lot of people in the community,” said O’Neill. “I think residents learned from the election two years ago that if you’re not paying attention, some things can happen that you might not want to happen, so people are more engaged this time around.

Mayoral candidate Chauncey Clark has served on council for eight years. He said running for mayor is the next logical step.

“I fought for our elementary school, oversaw the rebuilding of our Town Hall, and was part of a mediation compromise that settled a divisive lawsuit regarding managing the accreted land. There’s so much more to do,” Clark said in an e-mail Friday afternoon. “Flooding, storm protection, resilience, safety, and traffic to name a few. I just brought forth a resilience grant from NFW for a study regarding the backside of our island. This is our first step toward resilience ever but just the beginning.”

Clark said the parking and accreted land are two issues that have been highly politicized.

“The accreted land is a settled lawsuit and paid parking is a nonexistent issue. I have stated many times paid parking would be a last resort that would be decided by the residents,” he said. “There has been a call by some to choose sides. It’s a sign of the times and our politically divided nation. People seem to want to polarize even in a small community like this. The opposition in particular is running as a bloc on an us versus them.”

Editorial: Sullivan’s Council was elected to save maritime forest. It’s time to act.

In a single generation, a vast forest has grown atop accreted sand along the southern shores of Sullivan’s Island, creating a natural wonder with its own nature trails, wildlife and unexpected vistas that give residents and visitors an excellent sense of the Lowcountry landscape that existed long before man first stepped foot here.The maritime forest also has been a source of controversy from its earliest days, pitting a majority of those who cherish this gift from nature and natural storm barrier against a vocal minority of aff...

In a single generation, a vast forest has grown atop accreted sand along the southern shores of Sullivan’s Island, creating a natural wonder with its own nature trails, wildlife and unexpected vistas that give residents and visitors an excellent sense of the Lowcountry landscape that existed long before man first stepped foot here.

The maritime forest also has been a source of controversy from its earliest days, pitting a majority of those who cherish this gift from nature and natural storm barrier against a vocal minority of affluent and influential property owners who understandably don’t like aspects of it, particularly how the growing trees block their views of the Atlantic Ocean.

For decades, the town managed this friction as local governments should — with a series of compromises that delighted neither side but allowed some pruning and adjustments here and there to mollify the residents abutting the forest. Then came last year, when a slim majority on Town Council, possibly emboldened by the distraction of a pandemic, approved a far more expansive plan to cut back the forest, on a series of 4-3 votes. This brazen action led a solid majority of town voters to elect a new council against that deal and supportive of the forest.

As we noted after that election, the voters sent a clear and powerful message to conserve the growing maritime forest, and we urged town officials to act. It’s disappointing, if understandable, that they have been so slow to act. One reason for the delay is that the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control is still determining what permits, if any, it will require before any cutting begins. Town Council has hesitated, too, because its October 2020 vote authorized a legal settlement that was approved by court order. So, legally speaking, it’s complicated.

But it’s time for forest supporters to act as boldly and decisively as opponents did to challenge the deal — before the first chainsaw is fired up.

We were encouraged last week when Town Council agreed to hire an outside attorney to review its rights under the settlement agreement. While forest opponents claim the agreement is set in stone, we doubt that. Although entering into a legally binding contract is different from simply approving an ordinance, there’s still a significant legal principle — embraced last month by the S.C. Supreme Court in the lawsuit challenging the Heritage Act — that says one legislative body can’t bind its successors. Town Council should at least explore whether the contract’s language does actually bind it, and, if so, what its legal options are for voiding or amending the contract.

Time is of the essence. One legal avenue would require action within a year of the court order, first signed Oct. 15, 2020, but amended in April; one of the many legal questions that needs clarification is whether Oct. 15 is the deadline or whether the town has until April to appeal. But there may be a more pressing deadline. Depending on what DHEC requires for a permit, opponents may try to begin the cutting as early as next month.

Ross Appel, a lawyer and Charleston City Council member hired by the maritime forest’s supporters, correctly notes that a court ultimately will decide, but Town Council at least needs to ask.

Contrary to what some claim, the town never promised it would manage the growing forest in a way that maintains beachfront residents’ ocean views; the original deed restriction for the forest does allow for some cutting, including cutting to create views, if Town Council so chooses.

And that is ultimately what Town Council must do now: make a choice. We urge it in the strongest possible terms to choose actions that challenge the settlement agreement and shed more light on how future councils may amend it. It’s time to act on the message town voters sent in May.

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