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City Council Meeting June 20 -

McLeod Plantation development and Neck Area project approved
A questionable rezoning, CARTA budget approved without comment
Marc Knapp who covers City Council

McLeod Plantation to be developed
Well, maybe the Mc Leod Plantation will not be developed in the strict sense of the word, but many in the community feel that the acquisition by the American School of Building Arts will represent the equivalent. After a very long and emotional session, the Council approved the inclusion of the 31.5 acres that represents the major part of the Plantation in the School Overlay Zone classification. This clears the way for the School to purchase the Plantation from the Historic Foundation, and for the School to add those buildings that will be necessary to provide facilities for the 144 students that are expected to be enrolled.

The city and it supporters pointed out that any construction on the Plantation would have to meet Zoning and B.A.R approval. As well, the Historic Foundation would maintain a covenant on the property to ensure that the historic integrity would be maintained. That sounded fair, but the critics pointed to the very loose standards of the Zoning Boards and the B.A.R. They could not be relied on to protect the Plantation. And to emphasize the point, look at Fort Johnson, an historic site that was supposed to be protected when it was first acquired by a government agency. Has it been preserved?

A criticism was made that it was all very well for people to oppose the development, but could they come up with a viable and economic alternative? After all, the cost of maintaining an historic house is not negligible. The answer came at the end of the public participation period.

A speaker in favor or preserving the Plantation stated that he could raise near $2 million for the restoration of the property and maybe even more given time. He wondered why his proposal had been ignored by the parties? He could not see the logic of giving over the Plantation to a school to house only 145 students who would occupy facilities that may cost $20 million to construct. He asked for a deferral of 90 days so further discussion could be had with the Foundation and the School.

This offer provided a short ray of hope for a satisfactory solution. A deferral for 90 days so the School, the Historic Foundation and the restoration group could get together and determine an acceptable plan made sense. After the councilors gave there position speeches, a vote was held to defer a decision so some compromise could be reached. The vote failed by 6 to 7. Then sensing victory for the City, another motion was proposed to pass the original motion. It passed with only two dissenters. - Bob George and Larry Shirley. Kwadjo Campbell had left the room and was not able to vote but most likely would have voted against the motion.

The hearing on the Plantation issue took the better part of 3 hours and guessing, there could have been about 40 speakers, evenly split between "for" and "against". Glen McConnelll, the local State Senator and history buff was there to speak against the rezoning and Dana Beech from Coastal Conservation for the rezoning. The more passionate were the African Americans who wanted part of their past preserved and not desecrated by asphalt over grave sites or Wendell Gilliard who said there was nothing glorious about the past for African Americans. Let the dead look after the dead. Today was for those living. Let's move on a make the Plantation a school, to teach youth, black and white the history of Charleston and South Carolina. As Councilmember Tinkler stated, he agreed with just about everything that every body said. The right decision was hard to make.

Is it all over? It is hard to say. There certainly remains in this writer's mind, the question of the soundness of the school that will be occupying the Plantation. One of the speakers stated that it was not an accredited school and that its web site was very weak. It had no history of management and had not been involved in a restoration project. Another issue is the willingness of the BAR and Zoning Boards to ensure high standards are met in construction, and that the placement of buildings will not be damaging to the appearance of the Plantation. The record of these bodies is not good.

We would not hold our breath on the likelihood of some compromise between the parties in preserving the Plantation and creating a school. And there is also the important issue of costs. Preserving and maintaining the Plantation will not be cheap. Turning it into a school will eliminate the cost burden now being felt by the Historic Foundation. It is questionable how self sufficient the plantation could be if it were preserved and maintained as an historic house open to the public. It would require most likely, considerable funding still.

There was no doubting the resolution of the citizens opposed to the re zoning. Almost certainly they will think of ways to achieve their aim. But if they fail, you can be sure that they will be looking closely at any sort of development. And as the years go by and people get used to the change, and memories shorten, and people die …… and McLeod Plantation turns into Fort Johnson.

Charleston Neck Plan Reviewed and Adopted
There really was little new that came out in this hearing though it was the first official review. There have been many reports in the local press as to what is planed for the area, largely at the initiative of Mr. Robert Clement and Joe Griffiths, representing the developers and the City of Charleston.

The development will hopefully lead to the revitalization of the area on the Peninsula from Mount Pleasant Street in the south and to the boundary with North Charleston to the north. The Council has an Urban Plan that will lead to the enlargement of the residential communities that exist there presently and the development of underutilized industrial and other areas, some of which need to be cleaned. The city also spoke about the possibility of moving Interstate 26.

Nearly everybody endorsed the plan and as the City stated, this was the first step in the project. Nothing was written is stone and there were many more steps in the process before any development could occur. If there was any dissention, it was on the part of some residents in the area that claimed they had not been notified of the proposed development. And Council member Gilliard stated that the folk at Union Heights in North Charleston felt that they had not been consulted. After all, they would be impacted by the development.

There were apologies and explanation, and assurances that nobody was being purposely excluded.

No surprise, the adoption of the Neck Plan had the near unanimous vote of Council with Councilmember Gilliard voting against.

And why was the rezoning of 3107 Savannah Highway deferred?
We were surprised to see a request for rezoning this property. It stands in the middle of a conspicuous residential community and understandably, is zoned Single Family Residential. (SR-1). The owner wants to rezone it to General Business. We understand that he wants to create a used car lot. You've got to ask whether we need another car lot on the Highway. There are stacks 2 -3 miles down the road. Why can't this part of the highway be left as it is?

The Planning Commission recommended disapproval, and to us, it looks an eminent candidate for disapproval. Bob George moved for its disapproval but Council member Ann Frances Bleeker sought a deferral, a moved encouraged by the Mayor and carried by Council.


Editor's Note. Despite the fact that the property has not be re zoned, it seems the owner is selling used cars. The City has issued a cease and desist notice, we understand. ( August 2)

CARTA budget approved without comment
The near $7 million budget of CARTA was passed without comment. It was late in the evening and most people were tired and just wanted to get out. We already commented on the budget when it was presented to County Council about a month or so ago. Readers should use the archives to retrieve our comments if they are interested. CARTA has ssumed that the sales tax referendum will be passed because it has used part of the proceeds of the tax for financing operations in the fiscal year that begins October.