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City Council Meeting - Jan 11

City to receive $1.6 million windfall
Marc Knapp who covers City Council

There was not too much on the Agenda of last night's Council meeting. Of most interest was the proposed sale of land in North Charleston that was part of the old Navy base. The City of Charleston sold the land to the Federal Government in 1941 with the stipulation that it reverted back to the City if it were not used for naval purposes for two consecutive years. The City has exercised its right to reacquire the property. The City of North Charleston, that previously thought it was acquiring the land from the Federal Government has negotiated a deal with the City whereby the Noisette Company will pay $1.557 million cash for the 42.9 acre parcel with settlement within 30 to 60 days.

The deal was not exactly straightforward. An independent consultant valued the land at $2.7 million. However, an engineering consultant for North Charleston indicated that there were considerable pollution and drainage problems with the lot and projected remediation costs in aggregate of over $4 million. This figure was disputed by the City as was the need for some of the remediation. It did concede that some remediation was necessary and estimates this at a total of near $1 million.

Even so there is still a small difference between the valuation and the sale price. The City justifies this by saying it will be a cash sale and proceeds will be received within 60 days. It also notes that the sale to the Noisette company originally proposed by the City of North Charleston was on consideration paid over a 10 year term.

Council member Fishburne proposed that the proceeds be used for "affordable housing" in the City. But this may not be possible. Mr. Steve Bedard, the City's CFO noted that the proceeds had been anticipated and had be already put in the budget.

Citizens make a number of requests
Citizen Participation drew a number of speakers. Yours truly asked for Council to get back to basics and to pay more attention to services that affect the whole community. Problems still existed in storm drainage and with traffic signals, the latter causing much aggravation. Councilmember Lewis latter added that problems were also arising with the sanitation department, possibly stemming from both long hours and deficient equipment.

Another speaker sought to accelerate the extension of the 526 connector highway now that the sales tax referendum has passed. She cited the development that had occurred on Johns, Kiawah and Seabrook Islands and the impossibility of evacuation presently if there were a major hurricane. Another asked further questions about the need and cost of the tunnel under Maybank Highway which bisects the City's golf course.

Clarification sought on parking lease for 418 Meeting Street
Another question was asked by my colleague from Charlestonwatch. He sought clarification as to whether the recent agreement between the City and the developer of 418 Meeting Street for the lease of parking spaces in the Visitors Center garage was for 10 years or more, or a short term lease. The City ordinance proscribes that the proposed development provide for near 50 car spaces. If only a lesser number of spaces can be provided on site, then the balance must be located with 400 feet of the development and under a lease arrangement of at least 10 years. The Board or Zoning Appeals deferred a decision on variances and exceptions relating to the development until this and other matters were cleared up. Councilmember Fishburne is the principal of the company developing the site.

Council member Fishburne claimed that there had been no lack of transparency in his dealings with the City and the Mayor spoke warmly about the need for the development. But neither really addressed the issue of whether the lease arrangement was for 10 years or was indeed for a short term lease for only 6 month periods, terminable by the City with a month's notice. My colleague will write separately on this issue.

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