Beachfront handicap-accessible add-ons prohibited?

Sullivan's Island, S.C. (WCIV) — A system to prevent erosion and protect beaches could prevent a handicapped-accessible addition to Sullivan's Island home.

The South Carolina General Assembly established the Beachfront Management Act in 1988 to the beaches and dune systems in the state.

The act, in part, created baseline and setback lines to control new building along the coast in order to protect the dunes and fight erosion.

DHEC, in accordance with the act, redraws the lines roughly every seven years.

Enter the Tezzas.

Peter and Lillian, college sweethearts, decided to return to Charleston after Hurricane Hugo and restore an iconic home on Sullivan's Island.

"This kind of Miami vice, art deco looking house," said their grandson Trey Tezza. "It's white with blue railings. We've been described as the wedding cake house or the sand castle."

It's not a house simply used for weekend getaways on Breach Inlet. It's a family home.

The house is built on a revetment, a wall of rock that preserves the shoreline and the structure.

Peter had a stroke around the same time the new beachfront lines were drawn.

The family wanted to add on to the house to make it easier for him to get around. With the new baseline and setback lines, however, Trey said that would be impossible.

The Tezzas were notified that their property would no longer be "permitable" as soon as the new lines go into effect in September of 2018.

"As you can imagine with a round odd house without an elevator it becomes more difficult," Trey said. "We're looking to make some reasonable changes to make it, add an elevator, a room that he can have his physical therapy in."

Trey has led the fight to not only appeal the proposed lines so his family doesn't have to go through this process again in another seven years but he has lobbied lawmakers for a permanent change in the act.

He wants properties like his family home grandfathered into the law.

"The DHEC board can hear this on a case-by-case basis," Trey said of the appeals process. "I can't speculate on why they denied all of them but every single one was denied."

Cristi Moore with DHEC said the agency received 49 requests for review, which its board will then make a decision whether to formally review. The board chose not to formally review any of the 49 requests, according to Moore.

Moore added that is the end of the review process within DHEC. From there, homeowners can still appeal to the Administrative Law Court.

Tezza's request for review was denied in December, and he appealed to the court. He said he has not heard back.

As for the legislature, he has worked with lawmakers on an amendment to the current act to make a uniform rule regarding properties like his grandparents' home. It failed to the make it out of the Senate, but he is hopeful the house will adopt it.

"This is so eight years down the road, their grandparents or my grandparents or the elderly are not spending their last couple years wrapped up in this appeals process," he said." "This would make it fair for everyone."

Tezza said his family has spent $20,000 to date on the appeals process.


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