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Drive-by Zoning – It ought to be a crime!
Lee Walton

The Riley Administration’s haste to rezone the long vacant L. Mendel Rivers Building on Meeting Street and include it within the Accommodations Overlay District is a direct affront to all of the Peninsula neighborhoods that have been promised a voice in the development of a comprehensive plan for the Calhoun/East Bay/Concord Planning Area. This latest rezoning to accommodate conversion of the old Federal Building into another massive hotel on Marion Square exemplifies the arrogance and total disregard for the residences of the neighboring boroughs by Riley and his emasculated planning staff as they press headlong with one massive, uncoordinated project after another. As with other drive-by crimes, these seemingly spontaneous, random, ill-planned and uncoordinated acts invariably result in egregious damage to the quality of life in surrounding residential neighborhoods and often lead to irreversible, unintended consequences that adversely impact residential livability and quietude throughout the Peninsula.

Giving credit where due, it was refreshing to read this past Saturday’s Palter and Chatter lead editorial, “Another day, another project”. For once, there was a rare glimmer of journalistic courage by someone in the southwest corner of the News Room who, by now, has surely been read the riot act and intimidated by Riley for daring to speak out against the world-class visions of Charleston’s own would-be Banana Republic dictator. This editor accurately summarized the inherent danger of Riley’s seemingly uncoordinated plans – “…the real impact on those who live, work or visit the peninsula will not be clear if they aren’t all considered in context of each other.”

The need for comprehensive, concurrent impact assessment of all the currently proposed
Calhoun/East Bay/Concord Plans and those extending into the Market District and Cruise Ship Terminal are essential if the cumulative traffic and livability impacts of these projects are to be accurately evaluated. However, given Riley’s total disregard for increased traffic congestion, increased crime and exacerbated street flooding, one could surmise that he either doesn’t want to know the impacts, doesn’t want the neighboring residences to know, or both.

One need not look far to find glaring examples of the adverse impacts of out-of-context, patchwork planning under the Riley Administration. The uncoordinated development within the Shadowmoss Drainage Basin northwest of the SC-61/Bees Ferry Intersection resulted in the recurrent flooding of homes to the extent that a building moratorium had to be declared until adequate area-wide engineering assessment could identify the multitude of problems caused by poor municipal planning. The recent massive building program and expansion of the MUSC Campus has resulted in increased flooding on Courtney and terrible morning and evening traffic congestion between Calhoun and the Cross Town. Likewise, poorly coordinated subdivisions within the Bees Ferry area have rendered lower SC-61, Savannah Highway and the Glenn McConnell Expressway unintended parking lots for extended periods each workday.

Drive-by Zoning and uncoordinated municipal planning are crimes against the citizens of Charleston that have long range unintended consequences which create irreparable damage to residential neighborhood tranquility and quality-of-life. These crimes may not be as dramatic or life threatening as an assault, but they steal from citizens the very qualities that are essential to establishing and maintaining a safe, livable environment in which to raise a family or make a house a home.

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