Daniel Island launches petition to secede from Berkeley County

DANIEL ISLAND, S.C. (WCIV) Homeowners on Daniel Island have officially launched a petition to break away from Berkeley County.

This is not the first time Daniel Island has tried to break away. An attempt 12 years ago failed, but this time some homeowners are hoping for a different outcome.

The Daniel Island Neighborhood Association and the Daniel Island Property Owners Association is spearheading the move toward secession. On Thursday night, organizers held a question and answer session at Bishop England High School.

People in attendance listened to how the process for breaking away from Berkeley County would work. First, homeowners learned it started with a petition, signed by 10 percent of the registered voters who call the island home.

During the meeting, some felt the organizers lacked the answers homeowners needed to fully make a decision on whether signing a petition was the right thing to do.

"I just have to tell you that I think this is really the wrong way of going about it," said Berkeley County councilman, Tim Callanan, to organizers.

While he disagrees with the process, Callanan says Daniel Island often feels neglected by Berkeley County. Homeowners there represent approximately 17 percent of the property tax base for the county.

"No one's asking a one-to-one return, but we simply would like to see a better level of service than what we're getting now," said Callanan. "We have to drive all the way to Moncks Corner to pay our taxes and when we register our vehicle. There used to be an office in Goose Creek and the county chose to close it so they're actually taking away services."

Callanan says the push to breakaway from Berkeley County also stems over the controversy over the new middle school promised to be placed on Daniel Island after a referendum passed to build the several new schools throughout Berkeley County.

"When the referendum was over, they (school leaders) started talking about six or seven miles away where you can only get there by vehicles. That really rubbed people the wrong way," said Callanan.

Moncks Corner Mayor Bill Peagler attended the meeting and says losing the island would mean a major blow to the county.

"Berkeley County taxpayers are looking for a substantial, a really substantial increase to make up that difference," he said.

Dave Williams, the president for the island's neighborhood association, says a move to Charleston County would mean a significant tax savings.

"We spend all our money in Charleston and it would be nice to live in a county where that money came back to us," he said.

The savings, according to one lawmaker, won't come without a price.

"I think answers need to occur before the process moves forward," said state senator Larry Grooms who lives in Berkeley County. "Once it starts, then there will be an election, and there are some folks that may not want an election once they receive the answers to these questions."

Williams says he hopes to gather all of the signatures within the next ten days. In order to do that, he says they need about 700 people to sign in. The petition is available at the Daniel Island Property Association's Office.

From there, the petition will be sent to Governor Nikki Haley who would in turn appoint an annexation commission consisting of four commissioners. Two commissioners would be from the area to be annexed, and two of the commissioners would be from other areas of Berkeley County.

As the annexation process advances, it would eventually go to a public vote. The governor would order an election in the area sought to be annexed and an election in Charleston County.

Organizers pushing for the secession say they plan to hold other meetings in the future.