James Island is a town in Charleston County, South Carolina, United States. It is located in the central and southern parts of James Island. As defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, and used by the U.S. Census Bureau for statistical purposes only, James Island is included within the Charleston-North Charleston-Summerville metropolitan area and the Charleston-North Charleston Urbanized Area.
Long settled as a semi-rural area, this island has been affected by increasing urbanization and the expansion of the city of Charleston.
Island residents incorporated the Town of James Island on January 8, 1993. Joan Sooy was elected as the first Mayor.
A lawsuit was filed by the City of Charleston claiming that the parts of the new Town were not contiguous, being separated by salt marsh that it had already incorporated. The City of Charleston prevailed at Circuit Court and the Town appealed. The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled against the Town in 1997.
The South Carolina legislature changed incorporation law to allow incorporation over already annexed salt marsh. The Town of James Island was incorporated a second time in 2002. Mary Clark was elected Mayor.
The City of Charleston challenged the Town again, this time arguing that the new incorporation law was unconstitutional special legislation. The City of Charleston prevailed in Circuit Court and the Town of James Island appealed. The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the singling out "salt marsh" was irrational, the legislation was ruled unconstitutional and the Town was closed for a second time.
South Carolina changed the state laws affecting incorporation, effective on July 1, 2005. A third attempt to become a town was successful in June 2006, when about 3,000 voted to incorporate. The day after the vote, Charleston mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. filed a lawsuit against the town for the third time saying that it was unconstitutional. Mary Clark was elected mayor of the town for the third time in August 2006.
On November 7, 2008 the City of Charleston lost its lawsuit against the Town of James Island in Circuit Court. In an election on August 3, 2010, incumbent Clark lost to Bill Woolsey, an economics professor who was a former town councilman.
The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled against the Town of James Island in June 2011. It ruled that the South Carolina incorporation law used by the Town was constitutional, but that approximately 25% of the Town was not contiguous. Rather than remove that portion of the Town, it ordered the Town closed.
The Town was incorporated a fourth time after a referendum on April 24, 2012. The City of Charleston determined that it could not successfully challenge the Town by May and the deadline for a challenge passed on July 17. Former Mayor Bill Woolsey led the incorporation effort and unopposed in the election held on July 31, 2013.
The town limits have never incorporated the entire island of James Island, as the City of Charleston has annexed land on James Island before the original incorporation of the town and between subsequent re-incorporations. There were approximately 18,000 residents in what were the town boundaries and approximately 20,000 in Charleston's city limits as of the 2010 US Census. The Town currently includes a population of 11,500. Approximately 6,000 residents remain in unincorporated Charleston county, and 20,000 in the City of Charleston.
James Island is the home of many historical events and areas. McLeod Plantation, a former Sea Island cotton plantation, was recently sold by Historic Charleston Foundation to the Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission. Ft. Johnson is the site of the first shot of the Civil War, and the remains of Ft. Lamar are nearby. Recent renovations of historical places include the Seashore Farmer's Lodge on Sol Legare Road.