Judge rules Sullivan's town council acted illegally in ignoring 2011 petition

SULLIVAN'S ISLAND, S.C. (WCIV) -- The fight over a new 72,000-square-foot school on Sullivan's Island reached a conclusion Friday with a ruling that the town council acted illegally when it ignored a petition spearheaded by citizens against the school's size.

Circuit Court Judge Markley Dennis ruled that Sullivan's Island Town Council did not have the authority to ignore the 2011 petition against the size of the school. Dennis said only the courts have the power to decide the validity of a petition.

In the case of the new Sullivan's Island Elementary School, the petition was certified by election officials, but denied by the council.

Dennis said the council had three options: enacting the ordinance, holding a referendum, or seeking their own judgment in the courts that the petition was invalid.

"We are very happy with today's ruling," said Sullivan's Island citizen Karen Coste, "while we will not get the chance to vote, at least we heard a judge tell our elected officials that what they did was illegal. We hope other towns will not try what our town council did."

The citizens against the size of the school were seeking a judgment on the council's actions and a statement that the council acted unconstitutionally.

Dennis confirmed the first request, but said their constitutional rights were not violated. He also ruled the petition invalid.

While the two sides waited on a court ruling, progress on the beachfront property continued.

In January, a groundbreaking was held at the site of the new school. District and school leaders said at the event that the groundbreaking the positive result of a lengthy and sometimes difficult process that saw some islanders fight for a smaller school.

The school is designed to house 500 students.