The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance

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City Council, March 12

James Island residents criticize development projects
Rezoning likely prelude to major development near Ashley River bridge
Marc Knapp

Last eveningís meeting was held at the Bishop Gadsden retirement village on James Island. Perhaps more than a coincidence, there were a number of the Islandís residents who rose in Citizens Participation. Some were members of the Town of James Islandís Planning Commission (PC), and all the speakers were critical of the City of Charlestonís zoning and planning.

The speakers who were PC members noted that they spoke as citizens and not for the PC. They claimed that many of the projects approved in recent years by the City of Charleston, on properties under its jurisdiction, were ruining the character and serenity of James Island. They realized that these developments could not be stopped or reversed. But they clearly sought some change in the Cityís policy. Some asked that the Gathering Place zoning concept be scrapped and likened it to spot zoning. It was also suggested that not enough attention was given to infrastructure development prior to approving some projects.

The claim by one speaker that the City in its annexation program was only motivated by a desire to increase tax revenues was too much for Mayor Riley. He noted that he rarely responded to statements made by citizens in the participation period. But on this occasion he would. He denied the charge and went on to note the large properties on James Island and within the Cityís jurisdiction that were not liable to tax. They were many and included Bishop Gadsden. He also noted the parks and other City facilities that were open to the Town of James Island residents, not only on the Island but in the City generally such as MUSC and Roper.

Council member Wilson, who represents James Island residents within the City of Charleston jurisdiction, took mild issue with some of the speakers. She acknowledged she was not enthused about some of the developments that had occurred but she was hard pressed to understand the opposition to the proposed project on Folly Road and Grimball Road Extension. This property was a dump and the proposed project which had received the blessing of neighbors, would be a major improvement. This comment was followed up by the Mayor who said that the much criticized development at Maybank- Folly Roads Gathering Place had been subject to a public charrette. What was subsequently planned had broad public approval.

As usual, there was a crop of re-zonings before Council. Some we thought were interesting. They lie on the north side of Highway 17 just before it crosses the Ashley River, and were rezoned from General Business to Mixed Use. The change is the prelude to a large residential development. The properties aggregate about 5.7 acres and presently host a structure used as a gym, and a yard used by Turkyís for towed vehicles.

Concomitant with the re-zonings was a decision to buy about an acre of the property from the developer for $175,000. The City was offered the land by the developer for use as a park. It is essentially the parcel now used by Turkys. Before the sale is effected, the developer will clean up the land and lay sod. As the appraised value is more than a million dollars, the City seems to be getting a good deal. The purchase was unanimously approved by the Real Estate Committee and Council, and strongly supported by the Mayor.

And finally, the 2013-2014 Community Development Block Grants (CDGB) and Home Investment Partnership Program (HOME) grants were approved last night. The funding for these annual grants comes from HUD. However, the City is tasked with the process of determining the recipients and the allocations.

As seems usual in recent years, Council asked no questions relating to the programs and voted unanimously for the proposed allocations. As all of the allocations are accompanied by stringent conditions and scrutiny, and that committees formed by the City make the recommendations, Council members possibly feel that there is no need for further scrutiny.

We have no issue with most of the allocations but we think that some recipients are more worthy than others. We wonder for example as to whether some of the allocations to PASTORS would be better placed with another non-profit. Some of the funding is for running expenses. It seems to us that PASTORS makes little contribution to the community and the money would be better used by another entity. It would be nice if Council members asked some questions.

Viewers can see the proposed recipients of next yearís grants by pressing Download file

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