SULLIVAN’S ISLAND, S.C. (WCBD) – The South Carolina Circuit Court has ruled to preserve the Sullivan’s Island Maritime Forest. This comes after the town’s previous council approved a settlement agreement that would allow development to take place where the forest currently sits.

The circuit court ruled in favor of the Town of Sullivan’s Island’s request to invalidate the settlement agreement that was agreed upon by the previous town council.

“I was thrilled,” Sullivan’s Island resident Cyndy Ewing said. “It’s a monumental ruling.”

Many Sullivan’s Island neighbors and elected officials are pleased with the ruling that will protect the island’s 200-acre maritime forest from development.

“The judge agreed that that agreement was not legal under state law,” Sullivan’s Island Mayor Patrick O’Neil said. “And one main issue there was that one sitting council for a municipality may not tie the hands of subsequent councils for a municipality.”

The ruling, which was handed down earlier this week, gives Sullivan’s Island Town Council complete authority over the forest.

“They can talk about how we can manage this land for the safety and enjoyment of all the residents,” Ewing said. “It’s thrilling.”

Ewing is thrilled because she says without the forest, the island would be nearly uninhabitable.

“It actually holds the land,” she said, “the plants out here, hold our land together. It also protects us from storm surge and hurricanes and flooding.”

In addition to keeping the island whole, and protecting residents from storms, O’Neil says the maritime forest is special for another reason.

“This is land which has been growing,” he said, “it’s been accreting. Whereas nearly every other barrier island along the East Coast is eroding. So, our island is getting bigger.”

Town residents say after years of dispute, they’re elated the court finally saw the forest for the trees.

“What we are looking forward to is being able to celebrate this incredible resource that we’ve been given instead of having to fight to protect it,” Ewing said.