The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance

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County Council Meeting March 21

Mayor Summey takes issue with Council
Zoning and land revision planned
Warwick Jones

There are some things that go on in Council meetings that we don't understand. Take last night, for instance. Before Council was the award of contracts for engineering design of roads in the Roadwise program. The decision to make the awards has been before Council for some time. It has been held up on issues relating to minority participation. Chairman Stavrinakis suggested that a decision had been delayed too long. The "request for qualifications" resulted in submissions from about 20 firms. This number had been reduced to about 10 and further culled to about 3 firms, to bid for each of the projects under consideration. The evaluation had been made by a committee of Staff under a process mandated by both state and federal regulations.

Letter from Mayor
The problem last night, related to a letter to Chairman Stavrinakis from Mayor Summey of North Charleston. He was unhappy about the selection of firms to undertake design of the Palmetto Parkway. He thought that Davis and Floyd Inc. should be the favored designer. It had the experience and had worked in the area. On the other hand, and in his opinion the firm chosen by Staff, HLA Inc., had little or no experience in road design. Council members Darby and Pryor supported Mayor Summey's request, though perhaps not for the same reason that motivated the Mayor. It may have had more to do with the inclusion of minorities in determining the road design.

Did staff make a shoddy decision?
What we found strange is the opinion of Mayor Summey. Staff spent considerable time in developing the list of finalists. Earlier in the evening, we witnessed the giving of an external award to the procurement department of the County for its good and diligent work. Now the Mayor of North Charleston, in effect, was taking the Staff to task in making what one might describe as a shoddy decision. Members of HLA were in the audience. When asked, they rose and refuted the Mayor's allegation. It had years of experience and the slight by the Mayor not justified. Staff also made similar comments.

Or is something else going on that is not apparent?
So who's right? HLA made some strong statements that were supported by Staff that had considerable experience in dealing with contracts and contractors. Yet the Mayor of North Charleston disagreed with the statements. Is there something going on that is not immediately apparent? Over a matter such as this, there should not be such wide disagreement. Whatever, Council decided to go with the staff recommendations.

Some changes in land and zoning regulations planned
There was not much else of issue before Council last night. Most of the matters on the agenda had been discussed in the Finance Committee meeting last week. A decision was made to begin the process of zoning and land development revisions, much of which would affect the County Comprehensive Plan. The public review presentation was set for about April 11 and the public hearing for May 30. These were the earliest dates possible that would conform to legal requirements. There was some urgency in making these revisions in that Staff could not satisfactorily advise citizens as to land planning, subdivisions etc until they were implemented. Council agreed, though not without some dissension. Council member Scott felt that there would be lots of public interest in what was planned. He was concerned that Council did it right. He also noted that the budget process was about to begin. And this was a very demanding time for Council. For this reason, it may not be possible for Council to give its full attention to what was required in relation to the zoning and land development revisions. He was outvoted.

Council member Darby concerned about SPA's intent
Council member Darby, at the conclusion of last night's meeting, drew attention to the report that the State Port Authority was planning on selling the land it owned on Daniel Island. Although the Authority had decided not to construct a new port on the island, the island was still considered an alternative by the Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps has recently released an environmental impact study on the proposed terminal at North Charleston. It is now taking public comments and will conduct a public hearing at the end of this month on the recommendations of the study.

Council member Darby viewed this decision by the SPA as an attempt to shut the door on development on Daniel Island, to assure that the new port was built in North Charleston. The Councilmember represents a number of the communities in North Charleston and the City of Charleston, which will be affected by the proposed port and the access roads. He has been very vocal about the adverse impact that the access road will have on the essentially African-American communities. He has stated that his future actions will reflect the wishes of his constituents, and this may go as far as opposing the port, beyond seeking to have the access road located well to the north of any of the routes proposed.

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