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City Council, October 9

Bees Ferry residents speak up
Affordable Housing development to proceed on Ansonborough Field
Marc Knapp

City Council occasionally holds its meetings in locations other than City Hall. Yesterday’s was at the Bees Ferry Recreation Complex in the Grand Oaks subdivision, West Ashley. It was not well attended but it drew a number of the residents of the general area. Most of them rose in Citizens Participation and predictably, the common complaint was traffic – there was too much and there was insufficient control, particularly with other developments planned.

Speakers noted the single entry into the Grand Oaks subdivision, the lines of traffic trying to enter and leave at the intersection with Bees Ferry Road. There was a single traffic light presently and it would still be needed if the City proceeded with its plan to create a traffic circle on the road, some 100 yards north of the entrance to the subdivision. Nobody mentioned the fact that the traffic light was installed relatively recently, only partially mitigating the frustration of drivers attempting to make the turns. On the completion of the traffic circle, there was fear that the light would be removed. Some speakers wanted the City to do more to ensure the retention of the light but the Mayor indicated it was not possible. He agreed with the speakers’ desires but said that the SC Department of Transportation (SCDOT) had control of Bees Ferry Road and the installation of traffic lights.

Anther speakers noted the plan by the City to create trails and to divert storm water to a pond along the trail. What had happened to this plan? And what about the parking around the Recreation Complex? On Saturday mornings there were so many cars that parking over flowed into the residential area.

There was also a resident of the Carolina Bay development who asked the City to create an ordinance to limit the hours of construction activity. He said there were times in the development when work was being conducted at 11 pm and clearly at the inconvenience of the residents. If there were ordinances restricting amplified music why not one for that relating to construction activity?

The traffic problems along Bees Ferry Road are real and one wonders how they were allowed to develop. The problem for Grand Oaks residents is that the Glen McConnell extension was never completed and the development was denied its second exit/entrance. Notwithstanding, the Bees Ferry Road is barely adequate to handle the existing volume of traffic let alone that likely to flow with future development. We can only hope there is better liaison between the SCDOT and the local planning authorities in future.

Another amendment to Ansonborough Field development agreement
The Council Agenda was relatively light. Of interest was another amendment to the Concord Park (aka Ansonborough Field) development agreement, to allow the construction of Affordable Housing units. This agreement, between the City and East West Cumberland Park Associates LLC was signed some 5 years ago. The original agreement called for the construction of hotels, retail and commercial space, and a number of dwelling units. To undertake the development on the city property, the City was to be paid $16 million. The City has received $12 million of the total we understand, but relatively little development has taken place. A commercial building was constructed two years ago and a 50-room hotel is in the works, each requiring amendments to the original agreement. The dwelling units were to be a mixture of “market” and affordable housing, the latter to be developed by a “qualified affordable housing developer”.

In what is the seventh amendment, the developer, now Concord Park Associates LLC, has assigned the 0.42 acre Tract C –Affordable to the Charleston Housing Authority (CHA). There is no charge to CHA. It is the intention of the Authority to build some 60 affordable units, equal to the same number planned by the developer. Mr. Don Cameron of the Authority told us that seniors would be targeted as the likely recipients. He also said that he hoped the construction would begin next year.

The sharp downturn in the economy and in particular of housing was the major reason restraining overall development. And as the Mayor and the amended agreement noted, the development of the affordable housing units was set back by the inability of the qualified developer of the units to obtain Federal Low income Housing Tax Credits. Another qualified affordable housing developer was sought but the lack of federal funding frustrated the effort.

There were other amendments to the agreement, in particular relating to the purchase of the remaining tract on which “market” housing is to be built. Closing on the purchase has been extended to November 30, 2013, and the extension will cost the developer $100,000 but will be credited to the purchase price. The date for the completion of the park in the center of the development has also been extended, to April 30, 2104.

We doubt these latter changes are written in stone. There have been seven amendments to the original agreement thus far. Why couldn’t there be more if economic conditions don’t improve and allow the development to proceed? There probably will be a cost to the developer for another amendment, but we suspect it will not be prohibitive.

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