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County Council, July 11, 2013

Greenbelt funding to expand Angel Oak park
Second thoughts on early bar closing ordinance
Warwick Jones

Council was in a jolly mood yesterday. There was no apparent reason but goodwill and bonhomme were spread liberally. Even Council member Rawl, not known for his jocularity, cracked a funny and was seen to laugh. And Council member Condon’s questioning as to whether the proposed new and higher fees would cover the cost of time spent by staff on the Kiawah Rivers Plantation controversial, but now dead, Tax Increment Finance (TIF) district, had little bight.

Of most interest to viewers was probably the approval of a $2.4 million grant to assist in the purchase of 17 acres (Phase 11) abutting the Angel Oak property on Johns Island. Press Download file to see map. The Greenbelt Bank approved the grant and in turn, so did the Finance Committee. The total cost of the property is $3.6 million and the balance of the purchase price will come from the Low Country Open Land Trust. The 17 acres will be combined with the Angel Oak property, owned by the City of Charleston and formed into a park.

The Country did impose some conditions which were believe were acceptable to the City. The conditions were - The County Parks and Recreation Department is to own and administer the property, and the Carolina Homeless Veterans is allowed to farm 3 to 5 acres.

The purchase should bring to an end the conflict over the development of the property around the iconic oak tree. The saga began some years ago when a substantial development was proposed for the property. Law suits and a lousy economy stopped the development and the owner became insolvent. However, 17 acres (Phase 1 on the attached map) of the original 34 acres still remain open for development.

The Post and Courier ran a full story on the purchase in today’s edition.

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Planning Director Pennick spent a long time on his feet after making a presentation to the Committee on proposed changes to the County’s fee schedule. Most of the changes represented the addition of fees for applications related to the introduction of Form Base Code zoning. It also included fees for processing applications for TIF districts. Council member Condon had a lot of questions and generally she wanted to know if the proposed fees would cover the likely cost of processing these applications. She specifically wanted to know whether the proposed fee would have covered the cost of the time staff spent on the Kiawah River Plantation TIF district. The answers from Staff were imprecise, probably because nobody made precise calculations. But the opinion was that the proposed fees would go most of the way to covering costs. The fee that would have been imposed on the Kiawah River Plantation TIF would have been about $41,000 and covered most of the cost of staff time, staff said.

The fee schedule also indicated that applicants in certain situations would be obliged to pay for consultants to advise the County.

Council members Summey and Sass were not happy about the schedule and the imposition on developers. Council member Summey noted that the Cities of North Charleston and Charleston did not impose fees for TIF districts. Both members voted against the amended Fee schedule which passed 6 to 2. Council member Qualey was absent yesterday.

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Oops, we acted too hastily! They were not the words used by Chairman Pryor but they are a fair summation. Last month, Council voted to restrict opening hours of bars in the unincorporated part of the County. They had been allowed to remain open to 4 a.m. but under the amended regulation, they were required to close at 2 a.m. This change would have brought opening hours in line with those of the major municipalities. We think it was North Charleston who sought the change and which did not like bar patrons in the City “walking” across the road to a County located bar to continue their drinking.

Somebody in the County forgot that there were bars in the smaller municipalities surrounded by the unincorporated areas that continue to allow bars to remain open to 4 a.m.

The smaller municipalities will be asked to amend their ordinances to bring them in line with the County’s. If they don’t, the County could revert back to a 4 a.m. closing time

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