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City Council, May 8

Council approves two-way traffic on Coming and St. Philip streets
City to raise $50 million in Revenue Bond issue for stormwater projects
Marc Knapp

The main items of interest before Council last night were proposed changes in traffic flow on Coming and St. Philip Streets, and the closure of a lane to cars on the road around Hampton Park and creating a bike and pedestrian way.

Director of Planning, Preservation and Sustainability told Council that the proposal to make Coming and St. Philips Streets two–way was simply safety. There was no other reason. Traffic slowed measurably when a major part of the College there was a two-way flow. Mayor Riley said later that he thought pedestrians were also safer at pedestrian crossings. With single lanes going in opposite directions, a pedestrian making a crossing could always be observed by oncoming traffic. This was not so when two lanes were going in the same direction. There was always the temptation of a following car to pass a car slowing at a pedestrian crossing. A pedestrian that was crossing could be obscured and at risk.

A number of citizens rose during Citizens’ Participation. All spoke in favor of the plan for the area to the north of Calhoun but some were unhappy about applying the change to south of Calhoun. Generally, the speakers agreed with the City that the change to two-way traffic from one -way had worked in other parts of the City – Rutledge and Ashley Avenues, Beaufain Street in particular. And there was every reason to expect it to work on Coming and St Philips. It seemed there was unanimous agreement for making the changes for north of Calhoun. But some speakers such as representatives of the College of Charleston and Harleston Village were opposed to the change to the south. A major part of the College was between the two streets to the south of Calhoun and pedestrian traffic was very heavy. These speakers were concerned that two- way traffic was a bigger risk than one-way.

Some Council members had similar concerns and suggested that a special study be made of the southern area. One pointed to heavy traffic over roads through other universities with no extraordinary loss of life. These roads had crossings and lights. College of Charleston students were intelligent
enough to deal with two-way traffic. The Mayor made similar comments.

The approval by Council of the conversion of the two streets was only a first step. The issue had to go to the SC Department of Transportation. After its approval, the City would move to placing signs, crossings and lights. There would also be a plan for widening sidewalks and providing a bike path.

Council approved the plan with only Council member Seekings voting against it. Council members Riegel and Hallman were absent yesterday.

Council did not vote on the plan to close a lane on the Mary Murray Drive around Hampton Park. We suspect that the plan would have been approved particularly with Director Keane stating that he thought there was little chance of any congestion with the lane closure. Council Member Lewis sought a deferral until a public hearing could be held. The issue was contentious and the public view should be fully sought he said.

However there was concern over delaying a decision. The County was ready to move on paving and if there were a deferral, the project would be abandoned by the County. It was decided after comments by the Mayor that the project would not be a risk if a public hearing were held at the next Council meeting two weeks hence and if Council voted immediately thereafter. And that’s what Council voted for unanimously - a public hearing and voting at the next meeting.

Other items discussed yesterday included

  1. A $50 million Revenue Bond issue. The amortization and interest would be met by stormwater fees. City Attorney Charlton De Saussure told Council that the City received very high ratings from Standard and Poors (AA+) and from Moody’s (AA2). These two ratings were one notch below the ratings for the City’s General Obligation Bonds (GOB). A lower rating for Revenue Bonds compared to GOB’s is normal as the risk is higher, than not necessarily high.

    The proceeds of the issue would be used to complete and undertake drainage projects throughout the City.


  2. A zoning change from General Business(GB) to Mixed Use (MU-2) for the back part of two large parcels that front King Street (347 and 349). It is possible that the College of Charleston may agree to creating a student dormitory on the two parcels. The applicant was the City and the owners are The Pastime Amusement Company (The Beach Company) and Bricar LLC and Bucoise LLC. The potential developer of the site went before the BAR some months ago to gain approval for a proposed building. The developer is planning to make a proposal to the College and was attempting to ascertain what would be allowed before making its proposal. The zoning change is necessary for a dormitory to be built as GB does not allow a number of items such as kitchens. Council voted to send the item to the Planning Commission for its determination.

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