The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance
City Council Meeting - September 15, 2004
McLeod rezoning passes second readingMarc Knapp who covers City Council
City Council was on stage last night - literally. With City Hall closed for restoration, the council met at the Dockside Theater. Under spotlights, the Council gave a rather unemotional performance with a predictable ending, at least to the major issues before it.
City Planning gave a presentation as to the construction proposed on the McLeod Plantation site. This was followed by statements of support and opposition to the proposed sale of the Plantation to the School of Building Arts (SOBA) in the time set aside for Citizen Participation.
Mr Tim Keane representing the City indicated that a number of small structures would be built by SOBA close to the perimeter of the plantation on its south side. There would be an access road constructed on the south side and also on the north side of the property. Pathways would link the buildings and the main house and the main pathway would be tree lined. There would also be a generous use of buffers zones along the Folly Road side and the Eastern side. He also noted that there would be a parking space created. He did not indicate the size but stated that total parking on the site would allow for 50 cars. This was less than the School originally hoped for. Mr. Keane's presentation was more of an outline than anything else. As he noted, all these things had to go before Zoning, the Board of Architectural Review and the Historic Charleston Foundation.
The Citizens Participation took much longer than the usual 30 minutes. The Friends of McLeod were there in force. Queen of the Gullah/Geechees made an impassioned plea to retain the Plantation. She thought what was planned was sacrilege. The Plantation witnessed the blood sweat and tears of her people's ancestors and should be preserved as a place of living history. She also noted that a Bill was before Congress to establish a Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor.
There was also a comment based on an expert archaeologist's report, commissioned by the HCF as to how the site contained relics of so many important periods in Charleston's and the nation's history. These sites were threatened by the establishment of the school. William Scarborough, a State Representative said that he and Senator Glen McConnell opposed the sale.
One speaker referred to a conversation with Mr. AvRutick of SOBA in which he stated that nearly 200 students would be attending the school, not 144, the number that was generally being quoted. There were also spokesman from SOBA and HCF who supported the sale and the rezoning.
There is still a Zoning Board meeting before the deal is done. Most likely the opponents and proponents will again make their cases. But we can't help feeling that the sale to SOBA is a done deal. Pity that more concrete proposals were not put before the HCF before the SOBA proposal came up. We think the City should have bought the property to add to it store of green space. But even if it did, there still would need to be some necessary "development" such as paths, parking spaces, toilets etc. So it would have been hard to leave the site as it is presently and satisfy all those who opposed the sale to SOBA.
At the final vote Council member Robert George, Kwadjo Campbell and James Lewis voted against the rezoning. Councilmember Shirley was absent. The remainder of Council voted for the rezoning.
Height Restrictions pass second reading
There were no comments in the Citizen Participation period on changes to height restrictions. Many spoke in opposition to changes in the Ansonborough Field area at a meeting of the Planning Commission and the first hearing by Council. The changes were passed by Council.
Angel Oak Park to be enlarged
We were pleased to see that the park surrounding Angel Oak is to be increased. But it comes at a cost. The City will pay $1 million, in 3 years, to buy 16 acres to supplement the existing 2 acre park. But it hopes that such an outlay will not be necessary. It is discussing the sale with the County Parks and Recreation Department which it expects to acquire the Angel Oak property and the 16 acres. It in turn will make the $1 million payment and take over the maintenance of the Park.
The Angel Oak certainly deserves a larger and better kept park. The tree, some hundreds of years old is a national landmark. The 2 acre property is surrounded by a tall chain link fence and adds nothing to the tree's majesty.
The deal follows on the bankruptcy of Sea Island Comprehensive Health Care Corporation. The company operates health care services on a property adjacent to Angel Oak. It is selling 40 acres to a developer for $3.5 million and in turn, the City, or County will acquire 16 of these 40 acres. The funds acquired by the Corporation are expected to be sufficient to enable it to come out of bankruptcy and maintain its services.