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County Council, August 27

“Pitchfork plan” approved for Maybank Highway: Sea Island “Greenway” to be studied
Objectives defined for solid waste management
Warwick Jones

In common with Council members Schweers and McKeown, we were surprised to see “Johns Island Roads” on the Finance Committee meeting agenda without any supporting documentation. The documentation was given to Council Members just prior to the meeting and without time for proper consideration.

The items contained in “Johns Islands Roads” were Maybank Highway Improvements, the Sea Island Greenway (AKA as Cross Island Expressway), and Intersection Improvements. All of the items have been before Council though not recently, and well discussed, particularly the Maybank Highway improvements. Mayor Riley also attended the meeting and was given time to address the Committee. He spoke for only a short time and endorsed all the projects before the Committee.

Votes for modified “pitchfork” plan
Originally, the County planned to boost Maybank Highway to 4 lanes as it left the Stono River Bridge and joined River Road. The City of Charleston and a lot of Johns Islanders opposed this plan and opted for an alternative with the construction of secondary but parallel roads (the “pitchfork” arrangement). The plan before the Finance Committee last night was a compromise with 1 lane to be added to Maybank Highway, and two secondary roads constructed on either side of Maybank. More specifically work would begin on preliminary design and environmental impact, right of ways would be negotiated with land owners and development costs estimated. The County would coordinate its efforts the City of Charleston.

The Cross Island Expresway in a different guise
A highway across Johns Island, as Council member Schweers rightly recalled, had been discussed by Council and the idea rejected. Why was it coming up again? This time it was dressed up different and was a Greenway with vegetation buffers along it length and placed under conservation easements; no development would be allowed along it, staff told the Committee. Importantly, staff was not looking for approval to build the Greenway, just to study it. This was sufficient for Council to proceed with a discussion, but it seemed to us nothing much else had changed. The Sea Island Greenway (10 miles long) will still cut across Johns Island and will allow easy access to the Kiawah and Seabrook Islands. And as staff noted, there were no funds to build it. The County would explore private sources of capital and most likely a user fee (toll) would be necessary.

The funding for the study would come from unused amounts (about $200,000) from allocations made to Kiawah Parkway Improvements in 2007 and 2009. The County noted that “if the Town still wished to proceed with those projects, funds could be requested in future allocation budgets”.

What will be the cost?
The planned study would look at the siting and include an environmental analysis. The County would approach SCDOT in regard to funding or assistance. As the study progresses, a Request for Proposals (RFP) would be developed for public-private financing and design-build construction. We presume that the study will give some idea of the cost, of the highway and land acquisition. At the meeting to discuss the Cross Island Expressway last year, Kiawah and Seabrook Island spokespersons suggested a total cost of $60 million. We expect the figure to be much higher

Little discussion on Maybank Highway or intersection improvements
There was little discussion on the Maybank Highway Improvements (MHI) or the intersection improvements on some of the major roads on the Islands. The MHI were subject to public hearings both City and County sponsored. Indeed, it was hard to see what else could be said about the issue and it was time to make a decision on proceeding. But we agree with Council member Schweers. More notice and documentation of such an important issue would have been appropriate. The Intersection Improvements were not controversial. They would not encourage traffic on the island but would add to safety and convenience.

Council decides against voting on the projects separately
Council member Rawl wanted to vote on the items separately but there was no second. Council member Condon moved that the items be voted on all together and this was seconded by Council member Summey. Council members Schweers and McKeown abstained from voting, more as a protest on the lack of information provided prior to the meeting than in opposition to the projects, we feel.

Council member Rawl was the only person to vote against the motion. As he wanted to vote on the projects separately, it is probable that he would have voted against at least one of the projects. From his comments made during the meeting, we suspect he opposed the Greenway. He took staff to task as to what it considered the value of an oak tree. Maybank Highway is lined in places with large oaks and many would be cut down if the original plan for Maybank had proceeded – and this was a major factor in its rejection. Dividing the cost of the Greenway by the number of oak tress removed to widen Maybank Highway would give a high figure per oak tree. By implication, was the Greenway alternative worth it?

Council will vote again on the issues at its meeting on Tuesday evening. Council members Schweers and McKeown are likely to vote rather than abstain. And Council member Darby should also be present. He was absent yesterday. With all this make a difference? Not if the 5 Council members who voted for the motion do so again.

Clarification and definition of Solid Waste Disposal objectives
The only other item of note on yesterday’s agenda was “Solid Waste Issues”. There was no accompanying literature in the Agenda packets. But some time after the Committee broke up for an executive session, it voted on what is effectively its broad plan for solid waste disposal.

In some respects there was nothing of substance that was new. Most of the items had been discussed one way or another in the past. But what was produced were objectives and philosophy more clearly defined. It also committed to close the Montenay incinerator and to make greater efforts to recycle.

Herewith the text of what Council unanimously approved

In order to continue advancing development of Charleston County's Green for Green Solid Waste Management program, And whereas the County has previously adopted a 40% recycling goal and has a long-term objective to provide the premier solid waste program in the southeastern United States, staff requests Council to consider the following actions:

• Authorize staff to:
Negotiate a contract for short-term solid waste transfer and disposal of municipal solid waste.
Negotiate a contract for recyclable materials processing and/or marketing services.
Provide a short list of companies interested in providing emerging waste conversion technologies that meet the County's needs.

• Fully utilize the existing composting facility at the Bees Ferry Landfill so that all yard waste is composed, resulting in a significant increase in the County's recyclable rate. Investigate the potential to compost commercial food waste and other organic feed stocks.

• Implement a staff and operational department wide efficiency program

• Identify and explore public-private partnerships for all appropriate County solid waste operations

• Identify the percentage of recyclable materials currently being disposed of, which will provide necessary baseline data for planning and designing all collection, processing marketing and disposal systems.

• Manage the transitional process and closure of Montenay incinerator.

• Prepare ordinances to implement a construction and demolition debris recycling program that may include but not limited to, licensing or franchise fees, and sets a recycling requirement

• Provide Council periodic updates regarding the status of activities and accomplishments.

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