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Harmony Hall – A better buy for PRC and tax payers than Long Savannah swampland

Lee Walton

For over two months, readers of the Palter & Chatter have been bombarded with editorials and feature articles extolling the virtues of a J. Pericles Riley brokered deal extorting PRC into buying 1,600 acres of remote, federally protected swampland, tidal marsh and pitifully poor highland along the western edge of the proposed Long Savannah deal-estate development. This much hyped park site is the critical lynch-pin to allow the City of Charleston to annex and rezone 2,820 acres for a 3,600 home Planned Unit Development. This proposed Mega-PUD, the largest in Charleston County west of Daniel Island, would stick PRC and the taxpayers with a questionable park site of dubious value and limited public access for $6.5 million from countywide half-cent sales tax revenues. Its annexation into the City would also shatter the long-standing sanctity of County Council’s Urban Growth Boundary (UGB).

As currently zoned, 3,050 acres of the proposed Long Savannah PUD are located beyond the UGB within the County. If developed under the current rural County zoning it would only allow at most, 1,000 homes, even if public sewer service were available, which it isn’t. The PRC swampland purchase and City utilities from Riley’s lap-dog Charleston Water System Commission are crucial factors in this latest deal-estate development proposal which, not surprisingly, is blessed by the Palter & Chatter, Riley, and his faithful, self-proclaimed environmental side-kick, Dana Beach. Now that PRC’s proposal to purchase Harmony Hall threatens to scuttle their smoke and mirrors deal at Long Savannah, each has come out snarling like rabid wildcats.

Harmony Hall is a high, rare 420 acre waterfront site that offers one critical element missing at Long Savannah and all other sites now being considered as future PRC park sites – relatively deep-water access. With the untimely loss of the County funded public boat ramp at the City Marina, unbelievable overcrowding at the pitifully few boat ramps south of the Peninsula and the proliferation of new and prospective boat owners throughout the southwestern half of Charleston County, Harmony Hall has the potential to provide modern, safe and relatively sheltered access to some of the most beautiful and productive coastal salt-water environments on the Carolina Coast.

The North Edisto River is well known as the maritime gateway to the ACE Basin, the Intra-coastal Waterway south to Beaufort and some of the most productive in-shore fishing locations in the Lowcountry. One can easily imagine a vision of the Live Oak shaded campground, nature trails along the salt marsh over looking Wadmalaw Sound and a modern, multi-lane boat ramp with safe canoe/kayak access and ample parking for recreational boaters from all over the County. If developed as a rural coastal park, first-class boating facility and campground, Harmony Hall, has the potential to offer a much higher investment return to the taxpayers than the mosquito-ridden swamplands of Long Savannah. More importantly, it also has a critical benefit as a park that Long Savannah lacks – Harmony Hall’s development as a marine oriented park and recreational amenity would not threaten the County’s Urban Growth Boundary from annexation by Riley.

Governor Sanford’s recent quote, “Right now we have annexation shopping that effectively makes zoning at the municipal level zoning in name only”, effectively sums up the greatest threat to the quality-of-life in the Lowcountry. As long as Riley can make annexations with his deal-estate development cronies for the benefit of zoning and City utilities, “urban sprawl” will remain the greatest single danger faced by the citizens of Charleston, Berkeley and, possibly, Lower Dorchester Counties.

County Council must protect the UGB as the last hope to stem the relentless tide of “urbanism” that the County has experienced for the past thirty years. PRC’s proposal to purchase Harmony Hall with County Council’s approval, instead of the Long Savannah swampland, would be a world-class win-win for both PRC and all Charleston County taxpayers.

Your Comments:

One thing Mayor Riley always fails to mention is that the Long Savannah park will be a buffer to urban sprawl only if Hollywood and Ravenel don't build their own water treatment plant and decide to become sprawl magnets in their own right. Basically, Mayor Riley has no say in what happens past his vaunted barrier to sprawl. If he really wanted to lead by example, he'd stop sprawl on his own turf and not leave it up to other municipalities.

Posted by: Native_Ink at July 25, 2007 05:14 PM

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