BY: CHARLIE MORRISON
After Baker presented the organization’s annual report (see highlights in sidebar on pages 2 & 11), she turned the meeting over to Sloan, who tried his best to keep the session moving in a positive direction. And for his part, Sloan was not only aware of the fact the Farr Street project might be a topic of discussion, he attempted to get out in front of it.
“I just want to deal with the elephant in the room,” said Sloan after recognizing some DICA members who had been part of the organization for two decades. “There is a proposed senior housing complex to be built on an extension of Farr. It’s been somewhat controversial for some… I think there are people in this room that that’s probably the number one thing on their mind.”
Sloan explained that while representatives from Farr St. property developer Greystar weren’t in attendance at the meeting, he’d met with a group of concerned property owners earlier that day and passed along their concerns.
“I told Greystar that this was going to come up tonight, but this is not the meeting, they are not here,” continued Sloan. “If that’s something that’s causing you consternation just kind of nod your head.”
His request was met by nods, murmurs and then a show of hands that Sloan himself assessed as representing 40 percent of the room. “I just wanted to tackle this on the front end and then dive into something I think you’re going to enjoy.”
And while Sloan did try to put the brakes on the discussion of the new apartment building slated for Farr St., the topic came up at the end of his development presentation. After running through a short list of some of the updated plans for new construction on the island, Sloan came to the Farr St. street extension and the new Greystar building.
Sloan attempted to push on past the Farr St. discussion to a historical slideshow and a video prepared in recognition of the community’s 20th anniversary, but again he was detoured by a round of questioning that at times bore both emotion and intensity.
“Is that it for Farr?” began one meeting attendee. “I mean, we’re here to talk about Farr. We’re not happy with Farr. We’re concerned about our island, we’re concerned about the congestion, we’re concerned about safety, we’re concerned about how this whole process evolved, and all the clandestine things that are going on.”
“We’re here to talk about Farr, and we don’t want it,” he continued to the applause of some in attendance. “Why are you trying to hide this?”
“We’re trying to have an annual meeting that’s an important part of our governance…” said Sloan before again being interrupted.
“The annual meeting is over,” said another DICA member, before mentioning that a TV news crew had been denied access to the annual meeting. “What, you don’t want to answer questions in front of the TV?”
“I’m happy to answer questions in front of everybody,” said Sloan in response, his tone and temperament heating up. “…I think maybe what needs to happen is another meeting specifically on that topic.”
But they remained undeterred. Question after incisive question was fired at Sloan about the project. On the relationship of Farr St. developer Greystar and the Daniel Island Company, on the process that led to the property being developed, on the claim that property owners were misled about development, the DICA members were unrelenting.
“People, I didn’t want to lose control of this meeting,” countered Sloan. “I said on the front end this is not going to be a Farr St. meeting.”
“I asked you to respect that and offered you a meeting that would be Farr St.-specific, that’s all I can do right now,” he continued, to applause from attendees.
And still they questioned, until Sloan considered canceling the remainder of his presentation, which included the Company’s new marketing video about the organization’s two-decade life on Daniel Island.
“I’m asking you to respect the protocol of this meeting and I’ve offered you another meeting that we could talk about Farr St. and senior housing ‘till the end of time,” he said. “I don’t know if I want to do this anymore… (but) I’m going to go through it.”
Outspoken DICA member Kathleen Fitzpatrick took the last shots of the evening before the video rolled, accusing Sloan of setting a negative precedent of developing green space on Daniel Island.
“The precedent has been set in this community for certain plots of land,” she said. “Do people know that the public spaces where we have events like Park Day are one day going to be developed?”
“Park Day can be moved,” said Sloan in retort.
“You’ve set a precedent,” responded Fitzgerald.
But another attendee, Barb Jenner, who moved to the island in 2000, pointed out after the session that development along portions of the Wando River waterfront has long been part of the plan.
“For people who have lived here a long time, that’s common knowledge,” she said. “…I think the newer residents who don’t have that history were a bit taken aback.”
Jenner’s husband, Walt, has attended DICA’s annual meetings with Barb for years and felt things got derailed a bit this year.
“(Matt) gave people there who were angry the option for meeting at another time,” he said. “There were just a few in the audience who wouldn’t accept that and they were trying to hijack the meeting…But it does vaguely seem to reflect something about the process (of disclosing development).”
“My biggest thing, and the thing I wish they would take away from this is that open communication solves problems and if you want a community to accept what you’re doing you need to communicate what you’re doing,” stated Fitzpatrick after the meeting.
Barb Jenner agreed that the topic of the Farr Street project may indeed be relevant, but she questioned why it needed to be part of the DICA Annual Meeting.
“A lot of people there, their whole agenda was to bring up Farr Street,” she said. “Which really wasn’t what the annual meeting is about. I thought Matt did a really good job of bringing it to the forefront before anybody brought it up.”
“I was disappointed that the issues were communicated in what I perceived to be an unconstructive manner,” added Daniel Island resident Amy Justis, who was also in attendance. “I have found Matt Sloan to be a very reasonable person and I believe that he wants the island to be a great place to live. He offered the option for a separate meeting, which seemed like a great idea so that we could use the short time available to hear all of the updates that he and Jane had prepared.”
The video presented towards the end of the meeting highlighted the community’s development over the last 20 years, with comments from some of the island’s pioneering residents – including the Potts family, Rona Bobey, Sally Castengera, the Platzer family, and Sue Detar, who is also the publisher and managing editor of The Daniel Island News. The video also featured insights from Sloan and fellow Daniel Island Company executive Frank Brumley, as well as land planner Steve Dudash and Mayors Joe Riley and John Tecklenburg. The 20th anniversary presentation was well-received, garnering its own round of applause from attendees.
For more information on the Daniel Island Community Association see their website at www.dicommunity.org.