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City Council, March 18

City adopts Skateboard ordinance
Updates ordinances for peddling etc., and Late Night Entertainment Establishments
Marc Knapp

As is usual around this time of year, Council met yesterday at the Providence Baptist Church on Daniel Island. The meeting was short, and thankfully considerably shorter than that at the close of last month. There were no public hearings, no speakers in Citizens Participation, and no controversial proposed ordinances. However, there were matters of substance on the agenda –amendments to the Skateboard Ordinance, to that governing peddling, panhandlers etc., and to the Late Night Entertainment Establishments Ordinance. All were passed unanimously with little discussion.

The amendment to the Skateboard Ordinance was essentially making it permanent. The City introduced the ordinance about a year ago and agreed for a 6 month trial period. The trial was deemed a success and the vote last night made it permanent. There was a lot of language added to the Ordinance but in our view, the broad terms remain unchanged but more details provided. The roads over which skateboards are banned remain the same. All are on the Peninsula and include Calhoun, Meeting, King, East Bay, Broad and Market Streets. There are of course others and can be seen on the City’s web site.

One clause caught our eye -Every person riding a skateboard upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by the laws of this state declaring rules of the road applicable to vehicles or by traffic regulations of this city………. - Amongst other things, we presume this means skateboarders cannot travel down one way streets in a direction opposite to that indicated. We just hope the rule is enforced.

Sadly, skateboarders are allowed to use sidewalks. However they are banned in commercially zoned areas or in school overlay zones. And of course, they are banned from all of the sidewalks in the streets designated in the map referred to above.

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Council member Wilson, as Chair of the Committee of Public Safety, introduced the proposed amendment relating to the regulation governing peddlers, solicitors, buskers and vendors. The proposed amendment was to bring the ordinance up to date and to deal with the changes that had occurred in the City. The whole of Article V of Chapter 17 was repealed and replaced with a new Article. The new Article took up 16 pages in last night’s document package and seems to be about double the length of that replaced.

We won’t pretend that we have studied the new Article closely. It seems that in broad terms, there were no major changes but that the new Article has been more finely woven. It may be the wrong conclusion, but the fact there was little discussion of the new Article at last night’s meeting suggests no far reaching changes.

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And then there were the amendments to the Late Night Entertainment Establishment Ordinance. Again as Council member Wilson explained, the amendment was designed to give the establishments more flexibility in conforming with the ordinance and without jeopardizing safety. Under the original ordinance, an establishment was required to retain security personnel between midnight and 2 am on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and on Memorial Day and Labor Day, in proportion to maximum occupancy. For example, if the Maximum Occupant Load (MOL) was 49 persons or less, one door person and one security person were necessary. For a MOL of between 701 and 800, one door person and 8 security persons were required.

The obligation has now been softened with the introduction of a Voluntary Occupant Load (VOL). It seems designed to specifically help those establishments that don’t typically have the patronage to take capacity to maximum levels except on holiday weekends and those on which special events such as SEWE and the Cooper Bridge Run occur. The VOL is determined by the establishment and must be less than the MOL. The VOL allows a lower level of security than the MOL. For example, if an establishment has an 800 MOL but chooses to limit occupancy to say a 400 VOL, it reduces the mandatory number of security personnel from 8 to 4. However, on those special weekends, the establishment can operate at MOL levels as long as it provides the appropriate number of security personnel. However, at all other times, it must conform to its VOL limit.

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Probably few people know of Theodora Park. It is, or will be at the corner of George and Anson Streets. Presently called Ansonborough Park, it was designed as a children’s playground but more commonly used as a dog run. It is not very conspicuous but is about to become so -firstly, because it lies nearly opposite the entrance of the new Gaillard center and secondly, because it is about to get a $460,000 face lift.

The impetus for the face lift came from nearby resident David Rawle. He raised $360,000 which included his own contribution, to meet the estimated cost. The City last night agreed to kick in another $100,000. The funds will be used To create an exquisite pocket park that will provide a tranquil and artfully designed green space in a high visibility location.

On completion, the park will be named Theodora, in honor of Mr. Rawle’s mother. It will be managed by the Charleston Parks Conservancy.

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