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City Council Meeting October 4

Daniel Island Residents seek Court action
Warwick Jones standing in for Marc Knapp

There was no mistaking the ire of Daniel Island residents at the Council meeting early in September. The rezoning and City action to change an ordinance, designed to allow an "affordable housing" development in the center of Daniel Island was wrong they said. The issue was now back before Council, having received the approval of the Planning Commission. The residents last night again voiced their opposition to the Zoning and Ordinance change. But there was more, they declared their intent to take their grievance to the Circuit Court. This is the usual course of action after the Board of Zoning Appeals rejects an appeal against an earlier decision.

Last night's discussion had none of the acrimony of the meeting when the issue was first discussed. The three African American members of the Council who made slurs of those speaking before Council were silent. Nor did any member of Council speak in support of the issue though Council member Tinkler asked a question, the answer to which he hoped would lend support. The attorney for Daniel Island residents provided the answer and it gave the Council member little satisfaction.

There really was little new to emerge from the discussion. The residents again stated their support for "affordable housing", that the original development plan called for "affordable housing" but always was it stated that the housing would be "scattered site". The Daniel Island agreement between the City, the developer and the Guggenheim Foundation drafted in 1994 called for "scattered site" housing. The Master Plan for Daniel Island in 2001 also called for "scattered housing". The residents contend that the 72-unit single site development was against the letter and the spirit of these agreements. It is on the basis of these agreements that they will base the court action.

Residents again spoke again about the problems relating to clustered "affordable housing". They also said that residents were prepared to contribute funds through Daniel Island Trust to support "affordable housing". They welcomed an "affordable housing" program but it had to be "scattered site". They also pointed to the success of the very limited amount of "affordable housing" that had been provided by the City, all of which was "scattered site"

The attorney representing the Island residents also wondered out loud how much was the paper worth of any agreement the City might have with neighborhoods if the experience of Daniel Island residents was a guide.

Council member George spoke again about the denial of "due process" to the residents with the City changing the ordinance to its advantage before any decision was handed down by the BZA. This action to thwart the residents was improper. He and Council member Shirley again voted against the amendment. Council member Fishburne was absent last night but voted against the City's action in the meeting in September.

Below are some extracts from the original development plan.

Development Agreement among The Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, the Daniel Island Development Company ( DIDC) and the City of Charleston, dated June 25, 1995.

Article 7.1. Affordable Housing. DIDC agrees to sell to the City at the City's request a maximum of 20 acres of land within the property to be used by the City solely for Affordable Housing provided however DIDC shall have no obligation to transfer any property to the City until after such time as the City shall have developed a written plan for providing Affordable Housing on Daniel Island and authorized its implementation (the Daniel Island Affordable Housing Plan)

Article 7.2. Term of City rights. DIDC shall have no obligation to transfer any land to the City for Affordable Housing after 10 years from the adoption date.

Article 7.4. Location and Type of Land. The precise size, configuration and location of such land for Affordable Housing within the property shall be determined by mutual agreement of the City and the DIDC after the City has authorized the Daniel Island Affordable Housing plan. The land shall be average quality and in a location appropriate for scattered site Affordable Housing.

Certainly this text highlights the "scattered site" concept. But it raises another question for us. The City had 10 years to take 20 acres for "affordable housing". The cost of this acquisition would have been low and well below the market. Yet it developed only about 6 housing units in Daniel Island, cutting only marginally into the 20 acres available. Why did the City not exercise its right to acquire this land? Why has it been crying about its inability to acquire land because of the prohibitive expense when it had this option for 10 years and which now has lapsed?

Should registration fees be waived for indigents?
The plan to waive the $150 registration fee for those who are indigent and who wish to run for public office in the City was approved by Council. But there were some objections registered by Council member Shirley who spoke the longest and loudest. He said that he could sympathize with those who are poor and unable to pony up $150. But if they were so hard pressed for funds, they should not run for office. From his experience, running for office was costly and beyond the means of an indigent. And perhaps he didn't say but was just circling it, but if some one really were indigent, the question is raised as to the ability to fill the position to which he or she aspires.

Council members George and Morinelli supported Council member Shirley, with Ms. Morinelli voicing a very strong though short opinion.

DVD gets attention of Council and police
Council member Gilliard raised the issue of the DVD that the police had acquired and which had been viewed by many of the community. The story was covered fully in today's Post and Courier. Suffice to say, the DVD showed folk making threatening and offensive actions, waving guns and displaying drugs. Some of the individuals were on bail and according to Council member Gilliard some were parolees or sought by the law for other actions. He noted that the pistol waving and threats were conducted in public places in front of children and parents. Personally, he found it very offensive. The Mayor made similar comments and promised action against some of he individuals in the video.

According to the P&C, the maker of the video stated that it was all staged and the guns were not real.

We haven't seen the video so can offer no opinion. But from the P&C article, there was no mistaking the opinion of the police. It was a nasty video and would lead to arrests

Bike path along East Bay Street to Ravenel Bridge
The City, using a large chunk of change from the SCDOT plans to construct a bikeway along East Bay Street, linking the entrance to the new Cooper River Bridge to Calhoun Street. Importantly, this will give bikers access to a parking garage. One of the laments we heard frequently at the Public Hearings on greenbelts was the absence of parking facilities anywhere close to the entrance to the new bridge, with its excellent bike and walkway. But now citizens will have them though they will have to cycle another 1000 yards to get to the bridge entrance. But we suspect there will be no complaints. And besides, it will help fill up the City garage and we know that it could use some more revenue.

Cost of the bikeway is projected at $575,00 of which SCDOT will provide $460,000 and the City $115,000.