Elections

Ward 3 candidates refine positions at second forum

Town Council candidate Lee Edwards speaks during Thursday's candidate forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Hilton Head Island. Looking on are, from left, moderator Joan Kinne-Shulman and candidates Steve Baer, Ryan McAvoy, David Warren and Peter Zych. The five men are vying for the Ward 3 seat vacated by Drew Laughlin after he was elected mayor in November. The forum was held at Wexford Plantation's clubhouse.
Town Council candidate Lee Edwards speaks during Thursday's candidate forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Hilton Head Island. Looking on are, from left, moderator Joan Kinne-Shulman and candidates Steve Baer, Ryan McAvoy, David Warren and Peter Zych. The five men are vying for the Ward 3 seat vacated by Drew Laughlin after he was elected mayor in November. The forum was held at Wexford Plantation's clubhouse. Jay Karr

Candidates running for the Ward 3 town council seat reiterated their commitment Thursday to protecting Hilton Head's environment, character and waterways, while calling for reform in town practices and regulations to encourage redevelopment of aging properties on the island.

None, however, provided details as to how that would be accomplished.

The candidates spoke during a forum at the Wexford Plantation Clubhouse sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Hilton Head Island.

Beaufort County Councilman Steve Baer, 67; Lee Edwards, 43, president and CEO of a Hilton Head-based landscaping company; marketing representative Ryan McAvoy, 31; marketing consultant David Warren, 55; and retired money manager Peter Zych, 71, are vying for the seat vacated by Drew Laughlin, the island's new mayor. The council term expires in December 2012. The election is Feb. 15.

Ward 3 includes Spanish Wells, Wexford, Long Cove Club, Indigo Run, Point Comfort and Shipyard Plantation.

About 60 people attended the forum.

Baer said the town needs to "lubricate" the approval process of redevelopment projects and address "low-hanging fruit" -- minor redevelopment projects that can be approved quickly, while working on long-term solutions.

He said he favors creation of a town-chartered redevelopment authority, as long as it is under direction by elected officials. Baer said he would also work to create plans for a town village mid-island.

Edwards said the town needs to create a master plan that coincides with a re-write of the town's land management ordinance.

"We need to plan but not relax or lower standards or created new development, but reinvestment in the current infrastructure," he said.

McAvoy said the land management ordinance needs to be more business friendly and said an island redevelopment authority is a good idea, but questioned who would serve on it.

Warren called the land management ordinance "cumbersome and clunky" and said more needs to be done to improve the island's wireless communication technology.

Zych said he does not support the creation of an island redevelopment authority because he opposes the idea of public money being used for private purposes.

As for the LMO, he said, "Are we proposing the elimination of nuisance legislation or a substantial modification of our island environment? I don't think we are talking about a paint job. I'm concerned about land giveaways, increased density and relaxing building height restrictions."

Baer challenged a statement by McAvoy that the "era of turboprop" aircraft used by the airlines "is finished," as well as McAvoy's call to extend the runway as far as is necessary to accommodate corporate jets.

McAvoy also suggested a "tribute" be paid to St. James Baptist Church, home to historic native-island congregation that worships underneath the airport's flight path, to move so the land can be used for expansion.

"Maybe they could have a service in (the airport or) a donation to relocate to sacrifice for the community," he said. "We'll find a nice spot for St. James and we'll get them anything they want. It will be fine."

Baer countered, stating 56 airports in the U.S. have turboprop service and that more than 4,000 mid-size private jet takeoffs and landings occurred at the airport in 2009, accounting for 10 percent of overall operations.

"The airport is working just fine today," he said. He said more detailed analysis is necessary on the need to extend the runway.

Baer added he believes the town, county and opponents of tree trimming need to first come to a compromise so the airport can meet federal safety guidelines. That would allow the airport to retain commercial turboprop service, he said.

Edwards, Warren and Zych support plans for a two-phased extention from 4,300 feet to 5,400 feet.

In the end, the candidates worked to distinguish themselves more on their experience and qualifications to serve on Town Council than on the issues.

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