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City Council signs another “Blank Check” for Riley – The Long Savannah Development

Lee Walton

In one despicable, brazen evening of showmanship, Mayor Riley got His Council to annex 1,484 acres beyond the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB), amend the City’s Century V Comprehensive Master Plan to justify the UGB breach, approve the complex and convoluted Long Savannah Development Agreement, zone all 3,052 acres as Charleston’s newest Mega Planned Unit Development (PUD), and obligate Charleston Water Systems to provide the required water supply and wastewater transmission and treatment capacity (about a million gallons per day). Not a bad day’s work, even by Riley’s own standards.

In less time than it takes most Lowcountry commuters to drive to work, the Charleston City Council gave first reading approval on November 27th to four separate ordinances that promise to have profound impacts upon how and where future development occurs within the City and southwestern portion of Greater Charleston. In his typical “Damn the torpedoes – Full Speed Ahead” fashion, the Mayor of Charleston snookered his lap-dog apostles, thumbed his nose at County Council, trashed any hopes for cooperative regional land use planning, and created a twenty year plus obligation for the taxpayers of Charleston to fund the majority of future roadway infrastructure needed to serve this massive 3,052 acre, 3,600 home residential and commercial development.

Notwithstanding his cavalier attitude about overtly trashing the City’s long-standing agreement with County Council to not annex beyond its UGB, Riley easily coerced His Council into literally approving a Development Agreement that contained several blank spaces where the total allowable number of dwelling units and total commercial square footages were to be indicated; they had no idea what they were approving.

In all probability, the majority of Riley’s handpicked Council of sycophants hadn’t even thumbed through Part 17B of the Agreement that obligated the City to create a Municipal Improvement District (MID) to fund at least half of the Glenn McConnell Parkway Extension to serve Long Savannah. This obligation will divert future property taxes and scarce state and federal roadway funds to build service roads for Long Savannah - public tax funds that should be otherwise allocated equitably throughout the City.

Then there’s that pesky little Part 17H, 4 of the Agreement that allows the Developer to dump up to 1,800 homes worth of commuter and construction traffic (easily 20,000 vehicle trips per day) onto Bear Swamp Road if the first phase of the Expressway extension isn’t completed by the end of 2010. Understandably, this little oversight wasn’t mentioned in the Memorandum of Understanding the Long Savannah developers entered into with the Red Top Community. It probably wasn’t necessary to mention this little traffic nightmare, because one of Riley’s pet liberal-minded pettifoggers wrote a one million dollar contribution into the deal to turn the heads of any local non-believers.

Lastly, there’s the innocuous little Reversion Clause buried deep in the bowels of Part 18, euphemistically labeled “Civic Considerations”. If, within ten years after the effective date of the Development Agreement, the City hasn’t constructed its much-hyped Regional Park on the lands now being purchased with our ˝ % sales tax revenues, the right to use this property, as a park “shall end” and the property shall “…be reconveyed to the Developer free of any mortgage or any encumbrance…” Now that’s a deal any of Riley’s other faithful deal-estate developers can only dream about.

In the final analysis, it’s not Riley who’s totally to blame, he’s just the consummate opportunist acting as he always has, but we can blame his most trusted sycophants and emasculated supporters who don’t have the courage to say or print the unambiguous facts about these far-reaching deals that the tax paying citizens of Charleston deserve to be told. The editors and owners of the Palter & Chatter are at the top of this list because they continuously spew out meaningless drivel like that in their lead editorial of September 3, 2006, Stay firm on growth limits – “The urban growth boundary was established by (County) council in response to public sentiment on the need to restrain urban sprawl and preserve the rural landscape. Any changes to the boundary should support those goals” - drivel, just hypocritical drivel wasted on good newsprint.