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Developer is upbeat about the state of the island
By Elizabeth Bush
Dec 5, 2012 - 9:17:11 AM

The POA planned 17 community events in 2012. A highlight was the largest Park Day in Daniel Island history at its new venue at Governors Park!

Life is good in this island town. In terms of real estate sales and development management, Daniel Island appears to be progressing on a favorable course at a time when many other master planned communities across the country continue to face economic struggles.   
An upbeat report on the Daniel Island’s progress was shared with a relatively small crowd gathered at the Church of the Cross on November 27 for the 2012 Annual Meeting of the Daniel Island Community Association, which included reports from both Daniel Island Company President Matt Sloan, and Jane Baker, vice president of community services for the Daniel Island Property Owners Association (POA).
There were a few noteworthy changes at this year’s session. It marked the first time in seven years that Jimmy Bailey, Baker’s predecessor, was not leading the event. Baker took over six months ago for Bailey, who left to accept a similar position on Kiawah Island. But also absent was talk of recession-related issues such as mounting delinquent dues, foreclosure concerns, and less than optimal real estate sales that have been part of past reports.
“We’ve weathered the recession,” said Sloan during his remarks. “We are operating the company pretty much debt free…2012 will be a better year than 2011, 2011 was a better year than 2010, so we’re on this trend that’s the right trend.”
Sloan took a moment at the start of the meeting to praise Baker for her efforts on the job thus far.
“She brings a variety of new ideas,” he said. “She’s passionate about community development…She’s passionate about the philanthropy we do through the Daniel Island Community Fund and other vehicles. She’s just a great addition to our management team and a great addition to this community.”
“I inherited three very well managed organizations, with an extremely professional and dedicated staff,” Baker added. “…I’ve loved every day that I’ve been here.”

Community Fund
grants $140,000
Baker recognized the successes of the Daniel Island Community Fund, which awarded $140,000 in grant requests in 2012. Among the recipients – the Bishop England High School scholarship program, the Rotary Club of Daniel Island, Windwood Farms, Daniel Island School, and East Cooper Meals on Wheels. The POA conducted a community survey this year to gather feedback on the types of non-profit organizations residents are interested in supporting.
“The results of that survey showed that 90 percent of the things that the Community Fund is doing are things that Daniel Island residents are actively participating in, either as a volunteer, a funder or in some other capacity,” said Baker. “So we think we’re doing a good job with the Community Fund.”
Pending changes to the DICF process include implementing bi-annual grant requests and growing the fund’s awareness in the community, Baker added. She and her team plan to continue a needs assessment started in 2012 to determine how dollars can best be utilized moving forward.
POA revenues up, dues
increase planned
Baker also cited the POA’s success in collecting over $15,000 in delinquent POA dues this year. The Architectural Review Board (ARB) also reported a spike in building activity, resulting in a 30 percent increase in fee revenue. In addition, revenue from pool-related activities surged 32 percent in 2012. Another highlight for the year was the island’s hosting of the “largest Park Day in Daniel Island history” on November 3, said Baker. All total, the POA organized and planned some 17 events for the community in 2012.
In 2013, residents can expect to pay a bit more for POA dues, Baker added. A 1.5 percent increase is set to go into effect at the start of the year.
“We are well ahead of the game,” said Baker. “Our delinquency rate is less than two percent. That is just an incredibly strong number. Comparative communities across the country are increasing their annual dues on average from three to five percent.”
Boat landing fees will also now be charged on an annual basis for the first time, she said. The initial fee will be $75, instead of $50.
“We currently have 188 active users of the boat landing, and our maintenance fee went up considerably this year due mainly to vandalism issues.”
From an aesthetics standpoint, pine straw will be increased in common areas (which takes the island back to the service levels of 2008) and new furniture has been purchased for Pierce Park Pool. The association was also able to fully fund its reserve account this year.

Goals for 2013
Among Baker’s biggest objectives in 2013 will be strengthening the island’s town center area. She plans to target streetscapes and infrastructure improvements that allow better sidewalk to street connections. Business owners will receive a “report card” with suggestions for increasing customer traffic and interest in their retail locations.
“(We want to) work together with building owners to improve the public spaces in front of store fronts…so that residents and visitors have a reason to go downtown, stay downtown, and come back to our downtown,” she said.
Other POA goals this year include enhancing community events and standardizing the dues collection process.

DIRE expected to exceed
$100 million in sales
Daniel Island Real Estate is on track to break $100 million in total sales this year, said Sloan, as numbers continue on a steady climb since the unprecedented dips of 2008 and 2009. Although Daniel Island Park took the biggest hit in sales over the last several years, new numbers are revealing improvements there as well.  At the peak of the market, there were 22 custom builders constructing homes in Daniel Island Park, said Sloan, while at the bottom there were “zero.” A targeted effort to enhance the program is starting to pay off. Five spec homes were sold in 2012, three more are under construction and another two are pending.
“We’ve been working for a little over two years to rebuild the custom builder program,” he added. “Some builders that were here before are coming back in and others are new builders.”
There are other encouraging signs, said Sloan. Homesite sales have increased by 43 percent this year, lot prices are trending upwards, and resale inventory on the south end of the island is down. 
“We’ve increased our market share at Daniel Island Real Estate, thanks to the extraordinary efforts of the sales team, and to new training and a new listing presentation” he added. “I think I can speak for the sales people when I say I believe there is a sense of optimism in the sales building. The sales team is energized.”
Single family home sales are “holding their own,” Sloan said, and the number of foreclosures and short sales are decreasing.
“Our market correction cycle is complete. When I say complete, I don’t mean that the values are back to where they were at peak. But if you’re thinking how much lower is it going to go, then that train left the station about 18 months ago…depending on product type.”

Business closures
Sloan also addressed a concern voiced by a resident in the audience about the closing of businesses on Daniel Island.  When asked if rents on the island were too high, Sloan responded that retails rents here “do not command a premium over any place in Charleston.”  Those with strong business plans in place tend to fare better than those without them, he said.
“When a business closes, it’s sad and it’s unfortunate…and everybody wants to know why. But as a commercial landlord, I can tell you, commercial rents on this island are very reasonable.”
“I have been doing this for 40 years,” added Daniel Island Company Chief Executive Officer Frank Brumley, who was also in attendance at the meeting. “Unfortunately, it is indicative of a new small community, that revolving door changeover, and it’s happening every place I’ve been. Nothing seems to solve it but time and more residents.”
Among the other topics covered at the meeting was the proposed marina planned for the waterfront near Children’s Park on Daniel Island. Sloan told the crowd that costs associated with development at the site have created delays, but the project itself is still on the table.
“It’s not a dead project by any stretch of the imagination. Our permit has several years to go on it before we even have to worry about redoing it. It will get built. It’s just a matter of when.”
To view the 2013 DICA POA budget visit and click on the “news” tab.

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