The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance

The Watch


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Say "no" to unsightly development! Come to Planning Commission meeting on Monday

Ann Rounds,
39 Society Street, Charleston

In June, Charleston Watch warned residents of the adverse consequences of the proposed changes to the City's Zoning Ordinance to allow taller buildings in flood-prone sections of the peninsula. Please alert them now to the fact that these changes will probably be addressed by the Charleston Planning Commission for the final time on Monday, July 12. (The hearing will be at 5:30 at 75 Calhoun Street across from the County Library.)

Charleston residents should let the Planning Commission know (either by attending the hearing on July 12 or by faxing a letter to the Commission) that they oppose the proposed increase in the permitted height of buildings because it is yet another threat to the attractiveness and the livability of the historic area. Peninsular Charleston's charm and quality of life are so interwoven with the comfortable, even intimate, scale of its buildings that its charm and ease can quickly be destroyed by careless development that runs counter to the very human scale of the city.

Sadly, in recent years an ever-increasing number of large, characterless structures, ones that could be found in any metropolis in this country, have begun to be built in Charleston. And they have been built because Charleston's Zoning Board has failed to diligently enforce the Zoning Ordinance and instead has overridden the restrictions of the Ordinance by granting numerous unnecessary variances, all too frequently for major developments.

Indeed, one disingenuous rationale put forth by the Planning Commission for changing the height restrictions is that the Zoning Board grants so many variances that the rules might as well match the reality. But the restrictions were designed to preserve Charleston's historicity, so the solution should not be to make it easier for the Zoning Board to favor developers; the solution should be to require stricter enforcement of the Ordinance.

We should all be very wary of allowing the proposed new height limits to go forward: This creeping verticality, like urban sprawl, is at first barely noticeable. But the failure to notice and oppose it means that, inevitably, one day you'll look around and realize that all that you'd loved about Charleston, your city, has gone and in its place is Miami or Los Angeles or . . .