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City Council Meeting, November 14.

City Gym sold and new one planned
No discussion on hiring consultant for Preservation plan
Warwick Jones, covering for Marc Knapp who is ill

If it were not for the item relating to the sale of the City Gym to The Citadel Trust Inc, discussion of matters on the Ways and Means agenda would have been minimal. As it was, there was no discussion of the contract with Page and Turnbull, a consultant hired to make recommendations for changes to the City Preservation plan.

The decision to sell the City Gym to the Citadel was covered fully today in the Post & Courier. The City will receive $2.15 million for 2.52 acres on which the gym is located. A new gym will be built with the proceeds and the City has the right to use the old gym until the new one is completed. Council member Wilson, in perhaps her longest and most eloquent speech since joining Council suggested that the City aspire to more than duplicating the present gym. She also suggested consideration of swimming pool complex nearby. Council member Shirley endorsed her request and suggested drawing in surrounding counties to make it a regional complex. The Mayor did not reject Council member Wilson's request but indicated that it was also a matter of funding. The $2.15 million paid by the Citadel would only go part of the way in constructing a new gym. New money had to be found and its availability was an issue.

No discussion on reasons for hiring a consultant on Preservation
We were looking forward to the Mayor'scomments in relation to hiring a consultant to revamp the City Preservation code. After all there are few issues more important to Charleston than Preservation. We were disappointed. There were no comments or questions from the Council members. Maybe the issue is too sensitive considering the criticism the City has received over the large number of projects in the pipeline and the very adverse likely impact. Both HCF and the Preservation Society publicly have expressed concern about these projects and their impact.

The contract is for $150,000 and the City and the Historic Charleston Foundation will split the cost. Some details of the contract and plan were revealed at the forum given by HCF last week. (See Preservation Forum November 7)

Why is HCF paying half the cost?
We really don't care who pays for the study, as long as it is done, and done properly. But we are nonplussed why the HCF is paying half the cost. Yes, preservation is its purpose and in that sense, its interest is understandable. But updating an ordinance is surely the City's responsibility, not that of a non-profit. The absence of discussion last night leaves us to draw our own conclusions. Could it be the City refused to contemplate a revision of the Preservation Plan unless the HCF paid for at least part? Should the HCF even consider a payment such as this?

A copy of the agreement can be seen press here. (It's 4.3 MB so be patient) We have not reproduced the final two pages that relate to a timetable. The print is too small and is unlikely to scan well. But meetings between the consultant and public are to begin shortly and carry into the New Year. A draft report is due in May and the final in July.

Loosening of carriage tour ordinance deferred

The only other matter on the agenda we found of interest was a loosening of the ordinance relating to carriage tours. Previously carriage tours were not allowed on certain parts of Broad and Meeting Streets between 4 pm and 6 pm. A proposal was before Council to allow tours over these streets, but carriages could only travel in the opposite direction to the peak hour traffic. Mr. Tom Doyle representing the Carriage companies spoke for the change and said the present restrictions virtually closed down the carriage companies in these hours. Ms Greta Mendelsohn, who is on the Tourist Commission, said that it was unfair to penalize the carriage companies. The traffic congestion was being exacerbated by delivery trucks and construction vehicles and the few carriages that would be on the road would make no difference.

There were probably many who would take issue with Ms Mendelssohn but it was all moot. Council member Evans indicated that a City wide traffic study was being conducted and it would be premature to approve the change in the ordinance. Better to wait for the study. The Mayor agreed with this and so did Council.

Spirited questions during Citizens Participation
There were some spirited comments during Citizen Participation. Two speakers were from the Eastside. One questioned the City's efforts in relation to the youth of the Eastside and asked whether the City could formulate a long-term plan to engage youth that could turn to crime. He threatened to return again and again to ask the same question. Another spoke of the success of the Citizen Patrols against Drugs (CPAD) and asked where the support was from the pastors of the many churches in the area. Council member Gallant, as a pastor, responded that he hoped he was not included in this comment for indeed he had participated in the patrols.

Another speaker asked that the City give more attention to the area under the new section of I-26 near the new bridge, and around Huger and Mt Pleasant Streets. The area under the overpass is very dark and an invitation to crime. He also said that sidewalks and road maintenance were neglected in the area. Another speaker asked that something be done at the intersection of Ashley Crossing Drive and Magwood Lane. He lived close to the intersection and witnessed many accidents.

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