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City Council Meeting - January 25

No more unilateral decisions on sending police to other cities
Marc Knapp who covers City Council

Council finally got to discuss this issue of sending police to patrol I-95 in Santee and receiving a share in confiscations. As it turned out, it was a wider issue for similar arrangements had been reached with other cities and municipalities.

On the table was the resolution "ratifying, confirming and approving certain agreements from the Charleston Police department". There were questions from Council members Fishburne, George and Lewis about the merits of such arrangements, particularly with cities some distance from Charleston. Councilmember George suggested that the agreements be limited to surrounding cities and such entities as the College of Charleston. He proposed further discussion in relation to those agreements with Santee and Spartanburg. His motion failed with Council voting for the resolution before it.

However, there was victory for those skeptical of the arrangements. Police Chief Greenberg can no longer unilaterally negotiate these arrangements. The Attorney General of South Carolina had given his opinion of such agreements between municipalities at the end of 2003. This opinion had surfaced in recent weeks and was tabled last night. The AG opined that such agreements were lawful but should be subject to approval by Council. The Mayor did not necessarily agree with this opinion, but in future such agreements will be ratified by Council, he said.

Councilmember George asked for more details about the arrangement with Santee. The Mayor made much of the fact that the City had received $90,000 recently as its share from drug and other confiscations. He stated that the policing arrangement, as well as proving financially rewarding, was serving the City by interdicting drugs. The council member asked for more details of the time that City police spent in these other municipalities and the costs incurred by the City. These things needed to be put into the perspective of the rewards. The Mayor also stated that local drug dealers easily became familiar with the faces of police in the City or other municipalities. It was therefore good to get fresh faces to interdict drug dealing to maintain the element of surprise. Councilmember George also asked for details of the reciprocity of the arrangements - how much time did Spartanburg and Santee police spend in Charleston?

Crunch time for the City
By itself, it may have seemed an innocent request. The owned of property on River Road was seeking to exempt 191.1 acres form the restrictions of the official road plan map. The developer proposes to build a large condominium complex but has been frustrated because of plans to extend the Mark Clark Highway. One of the proposals before the SC Department of Transport calls for the highway to cut through part of the property. The developer is frustrated by the delay in moving either forward of backwards on the proposition and in a sense, is precipitating action.

The SC Dot is apparently finalizing plans for the extension and the City has now sought a deferral for 75 days. At the end of the 75 days, the SC DOT will be obliged to make an offer to buy the land it requires or the City must grant the request for an exemption. By allowing an exemption, the builder has the right to begin construction and should the SC DOT move later to condemn the property; the cost of acquisition will be that much more.

Pity that a decision has taken so long! Yours truly lambasted the Mayor for so long a delay. Land prices have escalated since the extension was first proposed. Cement prices are also up substantially. The Mark Clark extension is probably inevitable. But it is going to now cost a lot more! Consideration for acquisitions of properties such as that before the City last night may need to also reflect developers' potential profits.

Zoning Notices - Is there a better way?
It was a lonely but impassioned voice. It does not really matter what re-zoning application the speaker was referring to for he really wasn't opposing it. But he commented on the fact that the official notices that had to be posted on properties up for re-zoning were often not prominently displayed. He noted on one property, the notices were torn down or displaced and that people would not know the property was up for a re-zoning hearing. He also asked that some notification be made about a deferral. He noted that people had turned up last night to speak on issues only to hear that the hearing had been deferred.

We feel for him on both issues. There is always the question in relation to the disappearance of official notices as to whether they have been torn down by the elements or by a party to the re-zoning who does not want to alert the public. The possibility of the latter has created the need of greater alertness on the part of the public. Most neighborhood associations are consistently reviewing agenda's of Zoning, Planning and BAR meetings to ensure that they know what is occurring. As far as deferments are concerned, the issue often lies more with the applicant for rezoning. Some times the request for deferral comes only shortly before the scheduled hearing and it is beyond the City to alert the citizenry.

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