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Board of Zoning Appeals-Zoning July 20.

Does the Zoning Board understand its responsibilities?
Pat Jones who covers Planning

The Board of Zoning Appeals - Zoning just cannot bring itself to deny the variances and exceptions sought by the developer of the old Chapter II Book store. At the meeting two weeks ago, the board decided to give the developer "another chance" to meet some of the conditions. The Chairman stated that he thought that the Board should deny the request for variances and exceptions but he would go along with the suggestion of Mr. Altman and give the developer "another chance". So the representatives of the Historic Foundation, the Charleston Preservation Society and a host of people from Ansonborough, all of whom opposed and spoke against the variances and exceptions, trudged home exasperated, though still strong in their conviction.

They returned for Tuesday's meeting and all spoke again. Cynthia Jenkins of the Preservation Society stated that the requested variances were quite contrary to the spirit of the Zoning Regulations. Residents of Ansonborough again spoke against the variances as did the Historic Foundation.

No decision reached
Guess what? Another deferral. Thank you Mr. Rosen for requesting a denial. Yet no member of the Board was prepared to second the decision.

For those who have not been following the issue, the developer represented by Myles Glick, an architect, proposes to build a 60,000 sq.ft. structure dedicated largely to office space but with some retail. In contrast, the old bookstore building contained 6000 sq feet. Regulations require the developer to have dedicated parking for 99 cars within 400 ft of the building. He proposed to meet this requirement by having 14 spaces "on site", and the rest in nearby parking lots. However, he cannot find sufficient space for over 40 cars unless he goes to Majestic Square, well beyond the statutory 400 ft. For a full description of the previous hearing, see the posting on Charlestonwatch.com for July 6.

How can the Board be allowed to do what its is doing?
How many times do the citizens of Charleston, and the Societies that are pledged to preserve its historical integrity have to jump through hoops held out by the Zoning Board? What power does Mr. Glick have over the members? To whom is this Board accountable? Why does it fail to make the obvious decision? The Board has to be impartial and clearly, it is not!

Sandra Campbell, a Board member suggested the board should consider the possibility of increasing the distance beyond the 400 ft. for obtaining dedicated parking to meet zoning requirements. Ms Campbell added this increase would be necessary because buildings are getting bigger.

Council makes law, not the Boards
It is not up to Ms Campbell to make the law. And if she did, she should consider smaller buildings. Chairman Larry Krawcheck reminded Ms Campbell twice that City Council made the law, not the Board. He also said that the parking restriction of 400ft. had more to do with how far people would be willing to walk, than just with satisfying parking requirements.

Cynthia Jenkins of the Preservation Society added that although some buildings had parking more than 400 ft away, they were all government owned, constructed many years ago. The only alternative to satisfying their parking needs was to seek parking at a distance. The Glick Building is new construction and can avoid the parking problem with development that includes sufficient parking.

Structure is too big for site
The developer has accused the residents of Ansonborough of making the same old tired arguments against his development. But while he persists in submitting the same plans and the same variance requests, why should the arguments be tired? The building is too big for the lot and the parking variances that he is seeking will create problems for Ansonborough and other parts of the Peninsula. Mr. Russell Rosen, a board member, likened the project as "squeezing 10lbs of potatoes into a 5lb bag". So Mr. Glick, why not reduce the size of the building and or increase the amount of car spaces on site?

Other concerns were:

• Illegal turns from the northbound lane of Meeting Street could cause more traffic congestion and accidents. Illegal turns already occur at that corner, from the southbound lane into the parking and drive thru lane of the existing bank. There was also the example of the Eckerd Bldg on Calhoun Street. With its entrance off Calhoun, traffic backs up frequently through the intersection because cars turn from the westbound lane across double yellow lines. These turns may be illegal but people still make them.

• On- street loading zone to be shared with Jestines, the building opposite. Jestines has some 1-story structures along Wentworth. What is to prevent a larger building being constructed on that site, and what then becomes of the shared loading zone? Regulations require the new structure to have its own loading, and shared loading is one of the exceptions sought.

• Wentworth is a one-way street now. Will it remain as such? The traffic impact study that Mr. Glick cites, only applies if Wentworth remains one-way. Wentworth to the east and west of the Meeting/King block, is two-way.


• At a City Council meeting Tim Keane, city planning estimated that 65,000 vehicles a day traveled along I26 in 2004 By 2015, it could grow to 115,000 a day. Many of those vehicles will make their way onto the Peninsula. The increased size of developments and the onslaught of additional traffic will create unbearable density problems and traffic congestion. Already law and insurance offices have vacated Broad Street for Daniels Island and else where. Businesses use "congestion on the Peninsula" in their ads as a reason to shop with them.

The members of the Zoning Boards are appointed by the mayor of Charleston though subject to approval by the Council. The City and its supporters have cited frequently in recent weeks the integrity of the Boards. This was a palliative for those who opposed the increased height restrictions, and the development of the McLeod Plantation. We can rely on them (and the B.A.R and the Planning Commission) to stop unwarranted variances and exceptions! Makes you want to cry, doesn't it?

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