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City Council June 15, 2004

A momentous meeting?
Marc Knapp, City Council Correspondent

The City Council meeting last night has the prospect of being momentous. Before the council was a rezoning of a 6 acre plot of land on James Island, along Seccessionville Road. In a sense, the issue was not major. The developer wanted to build approximately 20 houses as opposed to the 4 or so that the present zoning would allow. The zoning proposed was Residential (SR1) and was identical to that of the surrounding area.

Councilman George said that he would not vote in favor on the rezoning! He was drawing "a line in the sand"! He said that council was approving too many zoning changes and subdivisions. These approvals were stretching the limits of the infrastructure and the capacity of roads. The city needed to reassess what it was doing and to study the problem. There was a great danger that Charleston would end up like Mount Pleasant with massive traffic congestion.

The mayor and some other council members spoke in favor of the rezoning, noting that it was not such a big deal. Heck, what's 6 acres! And as Councilmember Bleeker jibed, we could have had the roads if the sales tax increase was passed.

But Councilman George had his supporters. The first was a resident of the area who spoke of the narrowness of the road and the difficulty of exiting on to Folly Beach Road. She plead for no more development. But the surprise support came from the black councilmen. Councilman Campbell often votes with George on issues so his support was not surprising. But the support of most of the others was.

Where do we go from here? Does last night's vote mean that the council will no longer approve re-zonings that lead to greater traffic density, and pressure on infrastructure. Will an "in depth" study be launched on the need for expanded road ways? Or will the errant councilors that voted with George mend their ways and move back into the mayor's fold.

We don't know, but we were impressed that for the first time, the Afro-American councilmen voted as a bloc, and against the mayor. This is welcome, not because the subdivision was rejected, or because Councilman George's broader view is to be applauded. It is because they no longer are acting like rubber stamps for the mayor. We understand that many are very unhappy about the gentrification of Charleston and would like to see larger amounts spent on affordable housing. So the mayor may have to pay a "higher price" for their support in future.

And by the way, you didn't read this in the Post and Courier!

Council defers decision on Family Y development.
The council deferred a decision on the rezoning of the Family Y site on George Street on the Peninsula. We would like to think it was because the council was uncertain of its merits. But it was because Councilman Fishburne, who represents the district, was absent from the council meeting.

The "Y" is planning to sell the site and the developer is proposing to build about 74 units. For those who know George Street, the surprising thing is that the development got all the way to Council. The street is narrow, and particularly when the College is in session, is full of traffic. Have a horse carriage passing through and there is massive congestion. The College is planning on building a new basket ball stadium just about opposite the "Y". And now a 74 condominium development is proposed. The sight of 74 garbage cans waiting for collection will not be a pretty sight, nor will that mass of cars.

The developer said that the development had the unanimous approval of the Historical Ansonborough Association. One of the two residents who spoke against the proposal - he's on Charlestonwatch staff - denied this. As a member of HANA, he could not recall it even being discussed. Besides, there were a lot of people who were opposed to the development so in no way could there have been a unanimous decision.

Why didn't HANA members protest? Because they had been preoccupied with other zoning and planning issues over the last few months - new City height restrictions, rezoning for a restaurant, zoning for stables, other condominium developments. The "Y" development slipped through the cracks.

The "Y" is not in Ansonborough but is close enough to make a difference. We suspect that when the development comes up for voting again, there will be more residents in opposition.

Council votes against curfew for juveniles
We have a lot of sympathy for Councilman Gilliard. He proposed a curfew on the youth of Charleston in an effort to cut down on crime. Unfortunately, it is unlikely the law will allow such a curfew; the official statistics show that there is virtually no crime committed by persons under 17 years over the time of the proposed curfew and therefore, there is little reason to have one. And because the statistics don't support it, it is very likely to be shot down by the courts and the City sued if it were introduced.

Councilman Gilliard spoke eloquently and passionately about the problems of juveniles, particularly in the Afro American community. He spoke of the problems in his neighborhood, and the role that juveniles play in drug distribution. The police say they do all they can but if a juvenile is not showing cause for arrest, he can't be arrested. The councilman said he was not criticizing the police for doing an inadequate job but regardless, the mayor and others quickly came to support the police. He also noted that it was strange that the City could support a sort of curfew on adults - by closing bars at 2 am, but could do nothing about juveniles.

Our view - the root cause of this problem is inadequate parental supervision and poor education. Unfortunately, many of the kids who are dealing drugs come from broken homes - so how can you have full parental control? Education is something different. But it still requires parental control. Depressing isn't it?