The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance

The Watch


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City Council, April 8

Debate over penalties for infringement of "smoking in work-place" ordinance
Village Green joins Long Savannah. What about traffic a citizen asks?
Marc Knapp

There were only two items of note on last night’s agenda – an amendment to the City’s smoke- free work place ordinance, and an amendment that effectively makes the Village Green Development part of the Long Savannah Project. Both amendments were passed by Council though the first had some dissenters.

Supreme Court decision spurs changes
The ordinance relating to making work places smoke-free was made last year. There was considerable debate with some members opposed to the controls and penalties imposed. Some also argued that the State Supreme Court was hearing an appeal over the ordinance passed by the City of Greenville and that Charleston should wait for the Court’s opinion before determining its policy. Well, the Court has had its say and in the opinion of City’s Legal Counsel, the City’s ordinance look good – except in one area, penalties. The Supreme Court stated that individuals or entities that were infringing the ban on smoking should not be subject to criminal charges but to civil infractions, and fines should be of the order of $10 to $25.

No Council member had an argument with the conclusion that the criminal tag was too harsh and all who spoke agreed with the proposed change. But many had issues with the recommendation of the legal counsel that repeat offenders could have their business license reviewed and possibly revoked. The decision as to whether a business license is revoked lies with the Chief Financial Officer and the Business Licensing Committee.

Only Council should have powere to revoke business licenses
Council member Gilliard led the charge against the possible loss of a business license. He said it was wrong that such an important determination should be made by the CFO or the Business Licensing Committee. He thought that perhaps Council should have final say in any decision. And as others also argued, it is possible that a bar or restaurant owner is held responsible for an infraction but may have tried to restrain the patrons who caused the infraction.

Counsel pointed out that the powers of the CFO and the Business Licensing Committee have existed for some time. But it was the Mayor (we think) who suggested that the ordinance could be amended that if a business license were at stake, the final decision could be passed to City Council. Council agreed and such language will be inserted into the ordinance.

Council members Lewis, Mallard and Morinelli voted against the amendment, their position stemmed not from opposition to the amendment we believe but to the whole of the ordinance.

Village Green joins with Long Savannah
The Village Green project, a.k.a. as the C.R.Hipp Sr. Tract, has been around for some years. It annexed into the City in 1992 and guidelines for development were submitted to the City at that time. The guidelines and master plan were amended in 2003 and last night, were amended again, at least relating to the part of the original tract that remains undeveloped. The amendment under discussion last night related to 263.75 acres. Council was to approve the rezoning of part of the development.

We won’t go into the details but simply say that the approval sought of Council was effectively to allow the undeveloped portion of the project to be “incorporated” in to the Long Savannah Development. The projects are adjacent and the planning for both will be best if they are brought together. - at least that is what Josh Martin, Director of Planning, Preservation and Economic Innovation effectively said at the meeting.

Only one member of the public spoke against the Plan. He noted the severe traffic congestion on the Bees Ferry and Glen McConnell Highways. The congestion would not be helped by any development. He challenged members of Council to travel the area in peak hours to witness the severity of the congestion.

Council member Alexander calls for some relief from traffic congestion
Council member Alexander did recognize the problem of the traffic congestion. He asked where is the relief? What is being done to address the infrastructure problem? With all of this development, how will residents evacuate the area in time of a hurricane? He didn’t see how they could. We need to widen our approach to development to a regional basis, he said.

The Mayor attempted to defuse this criticism, suggesting that the Long Savannah development would probably be stretched over 20 years. He went further to detail all of the other developments in the broad area – Carolina Bay, Watson Hill, Poplar Grove, and Mead WestVaco and how the intervention of the City and others had led to development densities lower than first planned. He also said that the Glen McConnell Highway was to be widened between Orleans Road and Charlie Hall Blvd.

We doubt that this was particularly assuring to the member of the public or Council member Alexander. In effect the Mayor was conceding the traffic congestion will worsen! But however bad it turns out to be, it could have been even worse!

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