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Harbor View Road “PUD” – Peculiar, Ugly and Dangerous

Lee Walton

For those who travel Harbor View Road on a regular basis, many have noticed with a mixture of trepidation, wonder and amazement the queer collection of eclectic, postmodern residential structures being erected on what once was better known as the location of the historic, albeit recently demolished, Harbor View “Summer House”. This little collection of postage-stamp sized lots located on what was once a tiny, isolated marsh island has floundered for almost a decade as the ill-suited location of the poster-child of deal-estate developments by none other than one of Joe Riley’s most loyal political cronies and former administrative assistants.

Recently, two prefabricated residential boxes were unloaded and erected on arguably the two smallest lots in this tiny, but all to visible, development. From casual observation, it appears that the City Planning and Building Departments must have conspired to stretch every building setback, site occupancy limit and height limitation to allow the maximum square footage possible to be placed in these little comical Twin Towers. They appear so closely constructed to each other that their future occupants could almost shake hands balcony-to-balcony. Unfortunately, neither these Twin Towers nor the other recent tin-roofed, mustard colored and oddly appearing Key West Style addition seem to exhibit any architecturally redeeming qualities to off-set their ungainly scale and lack of supportive synergy. One can only speculate and wonder how awkward and overcrowded future additions will appear.

This latest ill-sited development is an unfortunate, albeit all too common, example of what now happens when members of the City’s Planning Staff are given too much unregulated, unilateral authority to interpret otherwise more restrictive zoning provisions under the freewheeling auspices of a Planned Unit Department (PUD). Notwithstanding the fact that this project started in the County and was subsequently annexed into the City for a more favorable zoning environment, one must also speculate about the amount of wink and nod political mischief that was in play between the Mayor and his former assistant and chief political crony when this development was annexed and approved by the City as a PUD.

Tragically, the real danger this ill conceived and poorly located development creates is that of a major traffic impediment to all who must travel Harbor View Road through a narrow, blind curve just west of the James Island Creek Bridge. There is already a similar, although not quite as dangerous, driveway serving several dozen condominiums about a hundred yards west of this poorly located PUD’s driveway entrance. To compound the dangers created by these two residential entrances, this area of Harbor View Road is also infamous for the dozens of cars that blanket the south side of this roadway each evening and weekend to frequent a very popular local restaurant with little or no dedicated patron parking. When the future occupants of a dozen or more residential dwellings in this most recent development try to enter or exit their driveway with very limited sight distances either way, one can only cringe at the probable outcome.

The next time you ride along Harbor View Road, look up at these new mini Twin Towers and ask yourself if this is the kind of land planning that Charleston deserves for the next four years. Thirty years of poorly planned and poorly sited deal-estate development sprawl throughout West Ashley and Johns and James Islands are enough – stand-up, speak-out and stop this madness now.

Your Comments:

Perfect comments on these incredibly ugly structures -- but more is coming! The Planning Commission will zone a 2 + acre vacant lot on Harbor View Road at their next meeting because this acreage has been annexed to the city. Guess what? It's that tiny strip of high land plus marsh right next to the peculiar layout of "Point Verona." What wondrous things could be done with this land! Perhaps a gazebo would fit - or if at all possible, it will be another area to cram with palm trees. Amazing. Everyone might want to follow this along as it goes from Planning to Zoning to OCRM to whatever one can think of as fit for this tiny part of high land.

Posted by: Carol Jacobsen at May 7, 2007 06:30 PM