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City Council, November 27

Re-zonings dominate meeting
Apple Charter School to relocate
Marc Knapp

It was another lean agenda. Still, the meeting was lengthy, with two proposed re-zonings drawing citizens to speak at the public hearings. Although there was some opposition to the re-zonings, both were solidly backed by Council

The first re-zoning related to a 0.04 acre parcel at 31 Cannon Street in Cannonborough. The owner sought the inclusion of the parcel in the City’s Accommodation Overlay and planned to construct a 25 room hotel. A hostel, also owned by the applicant, abuts the parcel. The City supported the application though the Planning Commission made no recommendation with voting locked at 3-3.

The City noted that the Accommodation Overlay had been extended to a large area along Cannon Street relatively recently. The purpose was to revitalize the area and to provide accommodation to better serve the nearby medical facilities and the College of Charleston visitors. Council member Seekings called the rezoning a “no brainer”. It was exactly what the community need for revitalization. Council, with not much deliberation, agreed and unanimously voted for the inclusion.

The other rezoning was more contentious though the final vote – unanimous with one abstention- would hardly suggest it. The issue was the rezoning of an 11.26 acre parcel on James Island in the School Overlay Zone. The cause was noble. The Apple Charter School had been very successful and enrolment was growing. It presently was 130 students but facilities were stretched. The school had been offered a low cost lease on the Fleming Road site and hoped to build a facility that could house 400 students.

There were a number of citizens who rose to acclaim the success of the school. Its director Patricia Williams indicated that it was a single gender school and targeted youth who had been failing in the public schools. Pupils, parents and teachers all spoke glowingly of its success. And nobody took issue with them. Even those who opposed the school had no criticism. It was just where the school was to be located - smack in the middle of single family residential area.

None of the property owners that spoke actually opposed the school as such. It was that there was no information as to where the building/s would be located, their nature, and the potential size of the school. There could be an impact on property values. Part of the parcel was wetland and some worried as to the potential for additional flooding.

Some Council members suggested that out of deference to the property owners, the school should submit a site plan before Council agreed to an extension of the School Overlay. Director of Planning, Preservation and Sustainability Keene indicated that this was unreasonable and that the School had done everything necessary to conform to existing ordinances. And indeed, if the application were approved by Council, the school would still need to go through a site plan review with the City at which the public could speak.

No Council member spoke against extending the School Overlay though some had the same concerns of the nearby property owners. Council members Lewis and Gregorie were the strongest in support of the school, the former suggesting that the benefit of the school would outweigh any negative impact on property values. Council member Waring took issue that there would be any negative impact arguing that the existing schools in the Peninsula e.g. Buist, First Baptist – had no negative impact on surrounding properties.

Mayor Riley wound up the discussion and indicated his support for the Overlay extension. All Council members voted in support except Council member Riegel, who abstained.

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