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City Council, May 23

Traffic signals to be coordinated - hurrah!
Other purchases, re-zonings, Miss Charleston, and crime
Marc Knapp

Some of us have been griping for years about the seemingly uncoordinated traffic signals of the City. Our gripes last night were acknowledged when the Council approved a $571,000 contract to implement the Traffic Signal Retiming Project. The contract was awarded to Day Wilburn Associates. The scope of the project will be the development and implementation of new traffic signal timing plans for the City, including about 95 signalized intersections.

This is the City's third attempt since Hugo to get the traffic lights timing done. One has to wonder what all the money for the previous contracts went.

As part of the project, the contractor will be required to train City staff in "timing plan development". It will also need to review hurricane evacuation routes and develop a new evacuation route map plan.

The City also is considering converting a number of one-way streets to two-way. If converted, the contractor must study new signal timing, and integrate the streets into the new plan. The streets are Coming, Ashley Avenue, Rutledge Avenue, St. Philip, Spring and Cannon.

Council approved the contract without discussion but with one comment. Yesterday's meeting was held at the AME Church on Bees Ferry Road. Council member Fishburne commented on the innumerable delays he encountered on his journey from downtown because of traffic signals. He warmly welcomed the contract.

Other contracts
There were a number of other items on the Ways and Means agenda that are worth noting, though none are issues.

• The purchase of a new pump was approved to supplement the 3 pumps presently installed, to assist in the Market Street area drainage. The new pump will cost $158,000 and should be delivered to the Concord Street Stormwater Pump Station within 3 months.

• An initial plan was approved for a bikeway along Ashley River Road, from Bees Ferry Road to West Bridge Road. The bikeway plan is an estimated 1.5 miles and the plans cost no more than $57,000.

• A new parking agreement with the Medical University of South Carolina for use of the City's Fishburne Street Parking lot was approved. The rent in the year ended May 31, 2007 will be will be $253,200 for 794 spaces. This is equal to $26 57 per space. The rent per space will rise to $27.90 and $29.30 in the following two years respectively. The increase in each year is about 5%.


City adopts Comprehensive Greenbelt Plan
Council also had before a copy of the Comprehensive Green Belt Plan, which it accepted. The plan was called for in the half-cent sales tax ordinance and was prepared by the Consultant to Charleston County and the Greenbelt Advisory Board (GAB). The plan is a blueprint, not only for spending of sales tax funds, but other funds earmarked for Greenbelts.

The Chairman of the GAB, Ms Louise Maybank spoke of the time spent in preparing the report and its importance. The Mayor responded with thanks and compliments. Interestingly, he made no comment on the issue that he had with the GAB about the 30% recommended allocation to urban projects. The Mayor, along with Mayors of North Charleston and Mount Pleasant advocated 40% for urban area projects.

The plan will be presented to County Council at its next meeting.

Request for re-zoning to commercial on Highway 17 denied
There was little of interest in much of the other items on the agenda- largely re-zoning and planning decisions. We had some sympathy with the doctor was trying to convert a house on Highway 17 to commercial from residential. The property is in the Byrnes Down area and the re-zoning was opposed by the neighborhood. As Council member Shirley noted, he could not understand why anybody would want to live on a house on Highway 17 with its heavy traffic. The doctor pointed to the 40,000 car trips along the highway and the "unfriendly" residential environment. But he agreed to oppose the rezoning, largely because lots were small in the Byrnes Down area and the parking associated with any lot on Highway 17 would impinge on neighbors behind the lot. Council opposed the rezoning.

Miss Charleston provided visual highlight
Oops, we lied. There was another item on the agenda of interest. It was a presentation of Miss Charleston. No doubt it was the visual highlight of the afternoon and was a welcome and short distraction of the other business before Council.

Despairing calls for action on the East side
Concluding remarks by Council members included an urgent request for action in dealing with crime in the East side. Council member Mitchell asked again whether something could be done about loitering and eradicating drug dealing. City Attorney Adelaide Andrews said that Council's hands were tied with the Supreme Court's ruling that loitering laws were unconstitutional. But she promised to look at other means to assist. Council member Lewis also thanked those who had enquired after him in the aftermath of a mugging. He also said that he had received threatening calls after going to the police.

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