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Palter & Chatter shatters harmony of green space approval

Lee Walton

It didn’t take long for the elitist editors of the Palter & Chatter to sharpen their steely little ink-stained knives and begin a concerted effort to press County Council into reversing its July 24th decision to approve PRC’s purchase of a 420 acre park site at Harmony Hall near Megget. It’s amazing how bitter and backstabbing these narrow-minded folks can be when things don’t go their way. Notwithstanding the “dog ‘n pony show” by Mayor Riley, City Council member Begone Evans, The Machine’s Colleen Condon, and a gaggle of the Mayor’s bought-by-the-pound sycophants, Riley and his deal-estate development cronies’ attempt to condition the Long Savannah Swampland purchase to a shift in the Urban Growth Boundary failed to fool the majority of enlightened and independent members of County Council.

Without the conditioned linkage pressed by Riley, the City annexation of Long Savannah for higher density zoning and critical public sewer service will be a much costlier and more problematic fight. The County Planning Commission’s August Meeting will be the first open, public airing of Riley’s latest vision to develop a “new urbanism” nightmare producing 36,000 more vehicle trips per day on Bees Ferry Road, The Glenn McConnell Expressway and Savannah Highway. The fight to approve Long Savannah promises to be as intriguing and politically vicious as another fall season of the Sopranos.

Deep down, Mayor Joe and his trusty deal-estate development cronies know that, with Harmony Hall as a much more attractive and usable County park site with almost two miles of waterfront, the Long Savannah Swampland park site purchase becomes harder to sell to the majority of County Council and the tax payers of the County, particularly those who must contend with the tens of thousands of Riley’s “old urbanism” commuters each day. The catfight he now faces in the coming months over Long Savannah will likely cost him more political capital than he can afford to invest with his mayoral election looming in November and a covey of firefighter “wrongful death” lawsuits hitting the courts and local news outlets this fall.

In an open, one-on-one comparison between Harmony Hall and the Long Savannah Swampland, the Harmony Hall purchase is the obvious winner for taxpayers and West Ashley commuters. To the contrary, linking the purchase of the Long Savannah Swampland park site to a relocation of the UGB to allow annexation into Riley-World and zoning to build 3,600 houses will greatly exacerbate urban sprawl and its many adverse impacts upon the tenuous quality-of-life remaining west of the Ashley River.

With the planned development of Long Savannah and Riley’s mega-traffic circle at the Intersection of Bees Ferry Road and the Glenn McConnell Expressway, the completion of I-526 will be obsolete and under capacity before it can be built. PRC’s purchase of Harmony Hall will reduce sprawl by insuring that a prime piece of excellent waterfront property will not be desecrated by “new urbanism”, adding to already overstressed rural roadways southwest of Ravenel.

As a coastal maritime park, Harmony Hall will not contribute to highway commuter congestion, the demand for extensive public sewer service or produce urban runoff to pollute the waterways and coastal marshes of the Lowcountry. No need to move the UGB, no thousands of additional homes and cars, no “executive session” deals for annexation, sewer service, or a three-fold increase in development density. A new County park near Ravenel and Megget would also bring much needed business and job opportunities to the local populations in those communities. It’s a no-brainer; everyone wins with PRC’s Harmony Hall Park, but all of the County will lose with 3,600 more homes in Long Savannah.

As usual in Charleston politics, the fun and games have only begun. Mayor Joe has already jacked up the Palter & Chatter’s editorial staff to a fever pitch. Will that bunch of third floor “wannabe experts” ever consider the real public price tag for the impact of Riley’s next “world-class new urbanism” vision gone nightmare? More over crowded schools and roadways, more taxpayer funded water lines, sewers, fire and police protection, decreased quality-of-life and property values, and no way to evacuate quickly – the costs of Riley’s past visions of “new urbanism” are well known. The last thing the Lowcountry needs is another new “ism” form Charleston City Hall.

Hopefully, the majority of County Council, The Machine’s Colleen notwithstanding, will see through all of Riley’s smoke and mirrors and vote against moving the UGB for Long Savannah. County Council must represent voters who struggle every day to make a good life here for themselves and their families – it’s time to protect what little quality-of-life the Lowcountry has left. Don’t move the UGB!

Your Comments:

It was hard to determine the substance in the Post and Courier editorial. It didn't dispute the merit of the purchase. It seemed more upset that the seller was making a profit. (Oh, making a profit is bad?) It seemed irrelevant to the newspaper that the market value is well in excess of the purchase price.

The decision was not only that of Council. The PRC made the decision to buy after considerable deliberation and was swayed by the tremendous value in the purchase and the likelihood that a similar opportunity would never again be presented to it.

Because Joe Riley and the newspaper editors don't like the deal, presumably because it threatens the likelihood of a Long Savannah purchase, Council is supposed to reverse its decision? Who is running the County?

Posted by: anonymous at July 30, 2007 09:45 AM

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