The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance
Mayor Riley is selling out the Mazyck Wraggborough Neighborhood
44 Charlotte Street
I've been chewing on this letter for days now. It started last week when I read Mayor Riley's letter to the editor (Post and Courier) chastising the Bush administration for allowing the Francis Marion Forest open to development. He was incensed that our way of life was being threatened and the government didn't care about our community. Later this week I happened to read an article in the City Paper titled "Philosophical Shift". The article talked about the massive development underway on Morris Street. City Hall had been able to "convince a black congregation to sell their land" and the project called for mixed use: six affordable houses were to be intermingled with the pricey town houses that are expected to fetch hundreds of thousands, if not over a million in the market today. Unfortunately the construction workers representing each group kept bumping into each other, crossing paths all day long! Mayor Riley and his staff found a "creative" way to buy off the Community Housing Development Organization (CHODO), by giving them enough money to move on out! With the help of the developers, the city found a way for them to move uptown, out of the historic district where they could qualify for federal grants and build more units. Gentrification Mayor Riley?
His letter in today's Post & Courier got me hot and bothered! What a hypocrite to fume against legislation that will weaken Charleston's ability to stop developers from making Charleston "Anyplace America" when he has done literally nothing to protect our Mazyck Wraggborough neighborhood from developers who want to take over The New Fourth Tabernacle Baptist and turn it into a theater! Our neighborhood is zoned Residential; the developers need a variance change to allow them to operate a commercial enterprise. It is expected 75-80 thousand people will come through in their cars and busses as patrons or employees of the Dock Street Theater and Charleston Stage! Why did the city spend so much time (our tax dollars) creating zoning laws that are meant to protect districts only to allow exceptions despite the adverse affect on the quality of our lives?
In today's article the Mayor says, " Neighborhood protection: The Crescent, one of our lovely older neighborhoods, was rezoned several years ago to a new zoning district created to reflect the unique character of the neighborhood".
With all due respect Mr. Mayor, Mazyek Wraggborough zoned Residential, is one of the oldest and last integrated neighborhoods on the peninsula. Despite numerous letters to the editor from homeowners who live here, a petition of over a hundred names of people opposing the request to commercial use, an overwhelming formal vote of the neighborhood association opposing the variance change and two elegant Editorials in the Post and Courier supporting our cries for help, you have found a way to rationalize the efforts of the developers in the guise of helping the parishioners.
Many are horrified to imagine this historic church being made into a theater. Our Holy City and its churches are up for sale and you are doing nothing about it! If a variance is given to these developers, you are starting a precedent, one that you rail about in your own letters that speaks out against developers who will change the character of our city. Imagine the Catholic Church on Broad Street made into condos. It's possible that the second oldest synagogue in America located on Hasell Street could become a nightclub. They wouldn't even need a variance use change for that. St. Phillips, given its proximity to the market would make a grand restaurant. All this is possible and does happen in "Anywhere America". How many unique diverse neighborhoods are you willing to sacrifice in the name of progress and development? You and your staff are ignoring our pleas for help. I suggest that you begin to listen and respect the citizens and homeowners who are telling you, we do NOT want the New Fourth Tabernacle Church zoned commercial! Heed your own words of advice and warnings and respect the will of our neighborhood.