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Growth Limit Pontifications – All Hat and No Cows
Lee Walton

A recent series of Palter & Chatter editorials extolling the virtues of regional growth limits have offered stark contrast to other recent published commentaries that have attempted to justify a mixed-use mega-development on the outermost fringes of West Ashley’s already over-stressed public utilities and transportation infrastructure. To the Palter & Chatter’s credit, each of these four editorials have contained clear and unambiguous urgings for local governments to institute and implement regional growth control policies or suffer the unfortunate fate of several rapidly expanding metropolitan areas in our state and elsewhere throughout the southeast. Common traits each of these four editorials shared are strong beginnings and equally powerful summations. Unfortunately, it’s the missing opportunity in the middle of these editorials that reflects poorly upon the journalistic obligation of the Lowcounty’s only daily newspaper to take a courageous position in opposition to the Long Savannah deal-estate development and its potential to do irreparable harm to the quality of life in the extended West Ashley area.

The following are selected quotes from the editorials referenced above: “Local governments manage growth, in part, by limiting the availability of public utilities to new developments…Cooperation among local jurisdictions provides for meaningful regional planning.” “Charleston County’s urban growth boundary is an essential tool to limit development, in particular the suburban encroachment onto rural lands…The urban growth boundary was established by 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 these goals.” “The public wants orderly growth that doesn’t diminish quality of life. That requires meaningful restraints on development. It’s up to elected officials to guide development where it is appropriate and limit growth where it isn’t.” “Elected officials should make common cause against heedless development that threatens the character of and quality of life in South Carolina.” These noble sounding quotes are nothing more than meaningless pontifications unless the elected politicians driving these misguided policies to proliferate urban sprawl are held publicly accountable. Why doesn’t the Palter & Chatter’s editorial staff have the courage and journalistic credibility to name names, call the electorate to arms, and work to have these perpetrators thrown out in the next election? Could it be that they’re also part of the problem as facilitators in league with the deal-estate development complex that has dominated the governance of the Lowcountry for almost four decades?

Why, after offering this brace of editorials praising the attributes of regional growth control and maintaining the sanctity of the urban growth boundary, would editors of the Palter & Chatter continue to publish commentaries by staff members of the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League that extol the virtues of moving the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) with the audacity to expect us to believe Megan Desrosiers as quoted in a November 30th commentary “…Long Savannah is a model for future development of our region and will set an important precedent for handling future proposals to move the UGB.” If this dangerous statement is SCCCL dogma, Charleston and the UGB are in for a lot more similar trouble in the future. In a November 22nd Palter & Chatter article announcing the City of Charleston’s intent to annex Long Savannah, Megan Desrosiers of the SCCCL was also quoted as saying “ We support density in the appropriate places, as long as the transportation infrastructure can support it.” How does she reconcile her statement with the findings in the County’s Davis & Floyd traffic analysis that recommended the “immediate need” for additional lanes in each direction for the Glenn McConnell Parkway from West Magwood Road to Tobias Gadsen Boulevard? This County study clearly indicated that the existing transportation infrastructure couldn’t support additional growth west of I-526.

As to the other necessary roadway improvements required to extend Glenn McConnell and improve Bear Swamp Road spelled out in finite detail in the City’s Long Savannah Development Agreement, the preponderance of these expensive improvements will rely upon funding from the roadway infrastructure portion of the ½ cent sales tax revenues. Weren’t these funds supposed to improve existing roadways serving existing developments throughout Charleston County? The supporters of the ½ cent sales tax referendum were not told that their sales tax would become a “piggy bank” to be used for new roads to benefit new deal-estate development at taxpayer’s expense.

From time to time, other local journalists offer insight into the quandary that effective regional growth limits seem to pose. A recent commentary by the publisher of the Charleston Business Journal offered similar insight and understanding of the difficulty to reach “…a functioning consensus that leads politicians…to agree on solutions that are truly for the common good across our internal political boundaries.” The highlighted quote in this article hit at the very heart of the leadership failure so pervasive in the Lowcountry – “ If you want to accomplish anything for the common good, individuals and special interest groups have to give up something in the process. But what they give up may be far less than what they get in return.” Unfortunately, that article also suffered the same lack of journalistic courage to be specific and demand accountability of those at the root of Charleston’s proliferating urban sprawl.

The fight to control urban sprawl and implement meaningful regional growth limits will continue to flounder like a herring flopping on the sand for lack of the one essential leadership quality most lacking in the Lowcountry – the raw courage to just say ENOUGH!