A runoff is likely in Atlantic Beach’s contested election, leaving residents unsure who will lead at a crucial point in the town’s development.
The historically Black beach town with 244 registered voters is divided over a proposal for a 21-story oceanfront high rise.
Eighteen ballots from Tuesday’s election were challenged and were reviewed Thursday. The ballots were accepted by the Atlantic Beach Election Commission.
The town’s Election Commission will hold a recount on Friday, since Thursday’s totals for both the mayoral and town council races were too close to certify, said attorney Michael Burchstead. Election commission Chairman Joe Montgomery anticipated needing to hold a runoff election, which likely would occur the week of Thanksgiving.
The town’s Election Commission approved all 18 of the ballots challenged by Irene Armstrong, former mayor, and Jacqui Gore, a current town council member up for reelection. The two argued that the voters’ primary residences were not in Atlantic Beach.
The leader in the mayoral race swapped with the addition of the 18 previously challenged ballots. Unofficial results on Tuesday showed Josephine Isom ahead of John W. David Jr., 62-49. As of Thursday, David has one vote more than his fellow town council member Isom — 65 to 64.
In the race for two town council seats, incumbent Jacqui Gore and newcomer Carla Taylor remained at the top of the field of four as of Thursday. However, the margin narrowed to 69-62 between Taylor and Jerry Leo Finney, triggering an automatic recount, according to attorney Michael Burchstead.
High rise in the balance
The election comes as Atlantic Beach residents consider changes to the blueprint of the town. The makeup of the town leadership will impact the future of a proposal for a $100 million high-rise hotel and condominium complex.
In February, Georgetown County native Charles Morant submitted to the town a conceptual plan for “The Black Pearl of the Atlantic,” a massive mixed-use structure boasting 168 hotel rooms and 24 luxury condominiums along with several short-term rentals.
A group of the town’s legacy property owners filed a lawsuit in September against the town and the developer. Town Manager Benjamin Quattlebaum said Wednesday that Morant withdrew his application. Quattlebaum said there is a possibility that it would be resubmitted
The two mayoral candidates hold opposing views on the development.
David opposes the proposed 21-story structure and wrote in a Sun News questionnaire, “The project poses challenges to the community infrastructure, the natural habitat along the shore, traffic congestion in the town and most of all preservation of our historical structures.”
Isom voted on July 11 to support zoning changes clearing the way for oceanfront development. She has dodged several chances to publicly defend the decision.
The winners of the election will lead the town along with current council member Edward Campbell, who voted for the pro-development zoning changes in July along with Isom and Gore.