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City Council Meeting November 8

Cab fares, and "affordable housing" at Longborough
Warwick Jones, standing in for Marc Knapp who is ill

There wasn't much controversy at last night's Council meeting. Council approved an increase in taxi fares and amended the ordinance relating to "affordable housing" at the Longborough development of the Beach Company. As usual there was the usual slew of re-zoning approvals. But it seemed that all the re-zonings issues were only of local interest.

Cab rates to increase 20% or more
The taxi fare increases were covered in this morning's Post and Courier. Suffice to say the increases take fares up 20% or more. No increase has been approved since 1997 so an increase was due. Mind, from the perspective of the cabbies, it is not quite as bad as would seem. They were able to add a surcharge relatively recently to compensate for higher fuel costs. But notwithstanding, the rate increases seem reasonable. Ignoring the rate for the first mile, the metered charge will rise from $1.25 to $1.75 a mile. The increase in flat rate fares, common on the Peninsula, will depend on how many zones are traversed. As way of example, the lowest fare across the Peninsula is presently $4, comprising the $3 fare and a $1 surcharge. The new and total fare will be $5. According to the P&C, the fare from the Peninsula to the Airport will rise from $16 to $20. It seems that cabbies were asking for higher-than-granted increases but the new rate was a compromise reached with the City. In the case of the example of the $4 flat fare, the cabbies were seeking $6.

There were a number of cab drivers at the meeting. They remained silent for most of the time except when Council member Lewis asked a rhetorical question. The council member had earlier raised the possibility of seeking minimum fares levels. The Mayor pointed out that defining a minimum fare was against the law and therefore not possible for Council to enact.

The new fares will come into play before the New Year.

Too many cars
The issue over the Longborough development was related to amendments sought by the Beach Company to the "affordable housing" Planned Unit Development (PUD). Amongst other things, the developer was seeking to reduce buffers. Recapitulating, the "affordable housing" proposal at Longborough has been around some years. When the then Shoreview Housing project was acquired, the Beach Company agreed to supply the City with 50,000 sq. ft. of housing for sale as "affordable housing".

It was not really the proposed changes to the PUD to which residents objected. It was the potential parking problems. And one resident stated that the community had not been properly consulted. There will be 42 affordable housing units ranging in size between 900 and 1200 sq. ft. Each of these units will have off-street parking for 1 car. But the residents pointed out that there will be most likely at least 2 cars, may be more, for each family living in the units. This means that at least 42 cars would seek parking "on the street". There would not be enough room on the street for these cars, and for those that belong to residents of other units yet to be built at Longborough. The implication was that there were too many "affordable housing" units on the 1.6 acre site.

Council member Gallant spoke with some indignation about the issue. Despite the relative restraint compared to some of his other comments at hearings on other "affordable housing" issues, he still earned a mild rebuke from the Mayor. The Mayor stated that all citizens had a right to air their concerns and those of the speakers were legitimate. Council member Gallant said that the "affordable housing" component at Longborough had been in the works for some year. The location had already been moved because of comments by citizens. It was time to move on. Besides the provision of off-street parking of 1 car per unit was the same that applied to other units in the Development. So deal with it!

And indeed, residents will have to as the Council passed the changes unanimously.

Other items that warrant a note include;

• The amendment of a contract to find out why the newly constructed Reuben Greenberg Building is leaking. A contract was awarded to Glick Boehm and Associates earlier this year. The original contract was for $33,000 plus "actual costs". The latter item was not specified but could not exceed $15,000, bringing the maximum value of the contract to $48,000.

It seems that the problems are worse than anticipated and the contract value has been raised by $17.5000 bringing the total to $65,500. And this is just for finding the leaks and the cause. Rectification most likely will be substantially more and one hopes that the cost of rectification will be borne by the original contractor and not the City.

• Refinancing of $3 million of bonds that related to the original financing of Waterfront Park. The City wants to lock in an interest rate at present levels.

• Awarding a contract to Preston, Gates, Ellis and Rouvelas, Mees LPO, to seek the award of federal funds to undertake drainage improvements in the vicinity of the Cross town and of the seawall of the Battery. The firm can charge a fee equal to 6% of any funds raised but up to a maximum of $150,000.

• An increase in the allocation from $30,000 to $47,000 to the Charleston Baptist Association. This is to be used, as is the original funding to "address administrative expenses related to lead abatement". This latest allocation "will enable the sub-recipient to provide minor repair and renovations to a minimum of 15 residents in the City".

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