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I-526/I-26 Conspirators "in league” with Riley’s Deal-Estate Development Cronies

Lee Walton

If one ever doubted the tenacity of the conspiring cronies hell-bent on shifting I-26 eastward in the Charleston Neck for the benefit of private development, they need not look further than the series of Palter & Chatter articles that have appeared over the past year. This past Sunday’s Palter & Chatter B-1 and H-1 above-the-fold broadsides were the latest in this series of misinforming drivel and editorial spin aimed at cultivating public support to move I-26 at the expense of the completion of I-526, the survival of the remaining remnants of the Rosemont Neighborhood and the proposed SPA terminal at the former Navy Base. This latest smoky back room scheme by Riley and his handpicked deal-estate cronies seeks to spend over $293 million in taxpayer’s money to move a short section of I-26 a few hundred yards simply to maximize the potential of another Riley World vision.

Fortunately, for all the hard-working taxpayers in the Lowcountry, the unambiguous findings of a Council of Governments sponsored study indicated that the Riley hyped plan to shift I-26 eastward in the Neck would cost $275 million more than the modest $18 million roadway and intersection improvements necessary to improve localized traffic congestion and accommodate future development. Quoting key findings from the COG consultants published in a local business bi-weekly on February 5th, “…our analysis found that we’re not going to have the kind of congestion on the interstate through the Neck that would warrant that kind of expenditure…it’s the local roads that are going to see most of the traffic congestion associated with future development in the area.”

Not surprisingly, the hired “experts” and heavy hitters working with Riley’s Neck Area deal-estate development cronies were caught by these findings like a bunch of “Palmetto Bugs” on the kitchen floor when the light turns on. Also, not surprisingly, the Riley sycophants at the Palter & Chatter and Coastal Conservation League were likewise left with their mouths a-gape; the paper’s acknowledgement of the COG study’s findings amounted to a spindly two-inch notice on January 29th buried so deep in the bowels of the B-section that one would need a miner’s light to find it. So much for balanced journalism, but then again, what true Charlestonian ever thought the Palter & Chatter offered balanced and unbiased reporting. It all started in 1872 with Francis W Dawson, but that’s a story for another day.

Speaking of the “Coastal Conservation League” and their staff of self-proclaimed transportation experts and want-to-be renowned regional planners, they now have the audacity to publicly propose environmental state and federal permit blackmail of the State Ports Authority (SPA) unless the SPA bends to their coercive threats as not too thinly disguised in the February 2nd Palter & Chatter B-1, above-the-fold proclamation “League: Let’s chat, or else”.

Honestly, Dana Beach and his little hand-picked staff of Rileyite liberals have just about worn themselves out trying to kill the completion of I-526 in order to shift this regionally needed project’s funding into the relocation of I-26. What little color of credibility they ever had got “flushed” when they openly and unashamedly backed Riley and his deal-estate development cronies in this shameless effort to, in Mr. Beach’s own words ‘…direct tax payers’ dollars to projects that serve public needs rather than special interest.” Just ‘cause he use to live in the country doesn’t mean the rest of us just fell off the tailgate of a Wadmalaw Island turnip truck. What a world-class hypocrite!

Sadly, the cruelest and most covert part of Riley’s Neck Area deal-estate development scheme is the real fate he has planned for the Rosemont Neighborhood. Just look at any map of the Neck Area – the one in Sunday’s Palter & Chatter H-1 “Neighborhood Alert” will do just fine. Do the homeowners that live there really think they will fare any better than the people that were shoved out of Shoreview Farms or the hundreds of generational homes “gentrified” on the East Side? Not a chance – the reason Riley and his cronies want I-26 moved eastward is not to stitch this historic African-American neighborhood back together; they want to increase its redevelopment potential and their future profits from this newest part of Riley World. If he and his cronies can’t buy you out, they’ll tax you out; either way you’re out!

As for the kind folks on Johns Island, I-526 need not be the startling thump under the bed that Dana Beach and his pack of bleeding heart liberal staffers would have you believe. Johns Island’s long-range land use and rural quality-of-life preservation lies squarely in the hands, hearts, minds, and, some would say, conscience of Charleston County Council members. They alone have the political power, if not the will, to enact long-range zoning and development standards necessary to protect the historic low-density, sea-island life style that still exist, for the most part, beyond the Urban Growth Boundary.

As for the part of Johns Island already inside the Urban Growth Boundary and within Riley’s greedy clutches – face it, it’s gone, lost to development, never to return! It’s fate is now that of James Island; every square inch will have a Riley sponsored deal-estate development crammed into it. Nonetheless, I-526 need not be the end of rural Johns Island, but it could be the political lynchpin that secures the necessary land use agreements from County Council that will preserve its rural character and quality-of-life for many decades to come.

Lastly, if County Council hasn’t the political courage or resolve to protect Johns Island, incorporate the Island before it’s too late and drive ‘em all mad like the “Eveready” Mary Clark is prone to do.