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County Council, June 12

A surprise over the Sea Island Greenway project
Proposed changes for Administration Policy/Rules tabled
Warwick Jones

Council members probably felt a little foolish towards the end of the Planning/Public Works Committee meeting last night. The issue before the Committee was the Sea Island Greenway (SIG). Proponents of the greenway made a presentation before the Committee late last month and asked that the SIG be placed on the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments (BCDCOG) Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP). The request generated a lot of heat. A subsequent Council meeting drew some 40 or so citizens and representatives of both sides presented their case. Last night, the opponents of the SIG were formally given an opportunity to present their case. After the presentations, the Committee began its discussion. No vote was to be taken as the purpose of the meeting was for only informational purposes. But as the letter from the BCDCOG submitted by Council member Qualey towards the end of the meeting indicated, a vote was moot. The SIG was already on the BCDCOG’s Long Term list!

We don’t know why Council member Qualey waited so long to reveal the contents of the letter from the BCDCOG. But the revelation virtually ended the discussion. Nobody asked how the SIG got onto the list and what now was the appropriate action of Council. Of course, because of the contention over building the SIG, Council may be happy to do nothing further. If some other municipality requested that the SIG be placed on the LTRP, then that was their business and not that of the County. But that might not fly with the opponents who certainly would like the SIG off the LRTP list.

If there is any consolation for the opponents of the SIG, its lies with the fact that inclusion of the SIG on the LRTP does not assure that the project ever will be undertaken, even if the County were to support it.

The letter to Council member Qualey from the BCDCOG and signed by Executive Director Mitchum says:
The LRTP…. guides the prioritization of projects for funding but does not identify or commit funding to implement a specific project. If the funding for a project is identified and committed, the project may then be included in the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP)…..

The SIG project can be considered, along with other LRTP projects for inclusion in the next TIP update. Projects are reviewed and prioritized utilizing a process and criteria approved by CHATS. This process is consistent with Act 114 and has been approved by the SCDOT Commission. Therefore , we cannot simply elevate a project to receive funding based on local government support

We will not attempt cover all the views expressed last night on building the SIG. Most of the points made had been raised in other meetings over the years. But the speakers did legitimately ask the question as to what had happened to the plan to upgrade roads and intersections on Johns Island that Council has adopted some two years or so ago, and in particular addressing the “choke” points at the intersection of Highway 17 and Main Road, and Maybank Highway and River Road. This caused some soul searching on Council. Staff indicated that some work had been undertaken on the intersection of Highway 17 and Main, but nothing much else. Administrator Taylor said that the projects had been placed on the County list and would be undertaken in order of priority. If Council wanted to elevate the priority of certain roads, that was its prerogative. We expect this issue will be re-addressed.

Also of issue was the number of dwelling units likely to be built on the island. Proponents of the SIG estimated that 28,000 units could be built on Johns and Wadmallaw Islands and the SIG was needed to alleviate the potential traffic pressure. The potential increase in dwelling units was too high an estimate, the opponents of the SIG said as it presumed that every lot on the islands would be built out to the maximum allowed by present zoning. This was unrealistic. Staff was instructed to look at the issue.

Proposed change to rules of the Administration Policy/Rules Committee tabled
Nobody was prepared to light the fuse attached the first item on yesterday’s agendas. It was titled Rules of Council Amendments/Committees of the whole. It was to be considered by the Administration Policy/ Rules(AP/R) Committee. Council member Qualey has played the major role in attempting to get the rules relating to the AP/R Committee decisions changed. Presently, if the Committee votes down an issue before it, the issue cannot be taken to the Finance Committee for consideration by the whole body of Council members. Council member Qualey wants all members of Council to be able to vote on every issue.

Council member Qualey claims rightly that what he suggests is the most democratic process. But it also questions as why have committees if everything is to be decided by full Council.

Council member Qualey has voiced his frustration that he has not been able to change the rules of the AP/R Committee of which he is the Chair. Concomitant with this has been his inability to move the discussion of the remuneration and responsibilities of the County Attorney out of the AP/R Committee to the full Council. He simply lacked the votes.

Did Council member Qualey have the votes last night? We don’t know for Council member Schweers asked that the motion to change the rules be tabled. He hoped that the issues could be discussed and worked out informally. Council member Qualey was clearly unhappy with the request of Council member Schweers but he voted for it as did County Chair Pryor and Council members Schweers and Summey. Council member Darby voted against the tabling.


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