Lady's Island group still all business after 30 years

gmartin@islandpacket.comNovember 21, 2011 

When Pat Harvey-Palmer broached the possibility of an event celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Lady's Island Business and Professional Association at its November meeting, the idea was met with raised eyebrows and awkward silence.

It's a business group, after all.

Harvey-Palmer is one of the fewer than 20 members in attendance when the group first met at Wilkop's White Hall Inn in November 1981. While the group long ago outlived its original meeting venue, it's as committed as ever to its original purpose.

"We wanted to get an organization together that could monitor the growth of Lady's Island," Harvey-Palmer recalled. "We've stuck together all these years, and that hasn't changed at all."

The group has grown to more than 200 members.

At the initial meeting, the group settled on a name and established a goal to promote the island's responsible development in the wake of a construction boom and corresponding population increase during the 1970s.

That growth has barely slowed. In the past three decades, Lady's Island has seen an influx of about 10,000 people and 4,000 houses, according to longtime group member Jim Hicks.

Part of the group's challenge, Hicks said, is to balance that growth while preserving the area's rural identity.

"If you spend any time here," he said, "you'll still see herds of deer, wild turkey and undeveloped land. I think we've done a good job of managing all that growth."

Hicks, who also writes the group's monthly newsletters -- in keeping with the group's no-frills approach, he buried the mention of its 30th birthday on the fourth page of the most recent missive -- says protecting local businesses may be its greatest challenge for the next 30 years.

"We've already seen our share of annexation wars," Hicks said. "We try hard to keep this island unique."

In 1987, the group unsuccessfully challenged an annexation of island property by the city of Beaufort.

About 15 years later, the island was at the center of more annexation controversy between Beaufort and Port Royal.

According to Hicks, the group has been integral in helping secure a new emergency medical station on the island, a new bridge span for the J.E. McTeer Bridge, and a performing arts center at Beaufort High School.

Current association president Jennifer Bihl said the biggest challenge will be maintaining the success the group has enjoyed over the past 30 years.

"We've got to just continue on the track we're going," Bihl said. "We need to do as much as we can to uphold what this organization was founded to do."

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