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City Council, April 22

Dorchester County says “thanks”
Slow moving unregulated vehicles banned on the Peninsula
Marc Knapp

It was another meeting with a light agenda. The Ways and Means, and City Council meetings combined took little more than an hour. And probably about half this time was devoted to presentations and recognitions.

The presentation last night was by the Chair of the Dorchester County Council. He attended the meeting to formally give thanks to the City for the help it gave to Dorchester in cleaning up after the February 12 ice storm. He noted that the damage sustained by the County was significant. The cleanup cost the County about $2.5 million but as Chairman William Hearn said, he expected $2 million reimbursement from FEMA. Chairman Hearn also formally thanked County Council last night. He also acknowledged the help received from the City of North Charleston, the Town of Mount Pleasant and Greenville County.

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Following on from a recommendation by the Traffic and Transportation Committee, Council moved to ban certain vehicles “not regulated by the State” from use on the Peninsula and to limit the use of golf carts. Council members had no issues with the recommendations and they were adopted unanimously.

We confess to being intrigued by the ban on unregulated vehicles. What were they? Pictures in the public information packages answered the question and can be seen by pressing Download file and Download file. They were unconventional, perhaps futuristic and bizarre, with a Disneyland look. They were on the streets of Savannah and provided transport or recreation for tourists. It was clear that in Council did not want to emulate Savannah. The Mayor wrote in his memo to Council members “I believe (these vehicles) cheapen the Charleston experience and even more importantly pose real danger for users and other motorist and pedestrians on the tight downtown streets”.

The Mayor also noted “we need to protect the integrity of our residential neighborhoods. And we need to see that the ambiance of (the) peninsula is nurtured and not degraded by activity more appropriate to a resort community that to a working, central city”.

We doubt that any resident of the Peninsula will have issue with the Mayor’s views. Indeed, we suspect many residents wish the Mayor would go further and reduce the number of tour buses and horse carriages on the streets. This is an issue that will likely be considered by the new found Tourism task force.

The part of the ordinance that related to golf carts was not so onerous. Golf carts are regulated by the state so action by the City can only be limited. The new ordinance bans the use by businesses of golf carts and low speed vehicles to transport patrons, unless the business owns or controls the points of embarkation and debarkation. For example, a hotel cannot use a golf cart to transport patrons from the hotel to say restaurants in Upper King Street. But it could transport patrons from the hotel to the parking station which it may own or rents spaces. As the Mayor noted, this part of the new ordinance was also designed “to protect the business area of the peninsula from being overrun by these slow moving vehicles carting patrons from point to point to point”. Again, we suspect few of the Peninsula’s residents would have a different view to that of the Mayor.

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Every year, the City receives funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for disbursement to worthy causes. The allocations for the year beginning June 1, 2014 were approved last night. As noted in the public information package, the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) was $1.122 million, up 3.3 % on the previous year, the Home Investment Partnership Program (HOME) grant was $891,000, up 7.4% and the Housing Opportunities grant for persons with Aids (HOPWA) $584,00, an increase of 2.3%.

The Committee on Community Development approved the recipients and the amounts at its meeting earlier this week. Council last night endorsed its recommendations.

Viewers can see the applications, the names of the lucky recipients and the amounts they will receive by pressing Download file . Unfortunately, a reflection on our technical ingenuity, we cannot get the file to load in “portrait” form. Viewer will need to use their “rotate” button to view comfortably.

As usual, we have reservations about some of the allocations. Certainly, the Committee refused some requests or awarded grants that were less than that applied for. Did this reflect limited funds or doubts over the merits of an application? Also, we understand the need for affordable housing but we wonder whether some of the allocations are high enough to be significant? We’ll let viewers decide.

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