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County Council, April 3

Folly Road Overlay moves ahead
Some changes in Roadwise plan for Maybank Highway
Warwick Jones

The agendas for yesterday’s meetings were light. But issues over the Folly Road Overlay, and a presentation on Roadwise made for a lengthy evening.

The Planning/Public Works Committee had only one item on the agenda, the Folly Road Overlay District. The creation of the overlay district was an attempt by the County to bring some uniformity to zoning along Folly Road. Presently properties along the road fall into one of four jurisdictions – the County, the Cities of Charleston or James Island, and the Town of Folly Beach. Representatives of these entities met over a lengthy period to shape the overlay. There were also a number of public meetings.

So it was with some surprise that Council members heard the comments of Council member Johnson. She said that she was not happy with designation of Residential to a large swathe of properties on either side of the road from Grimball Road to Battery Island Drive. Some of her constituents wanted the overlay designation to be Neighborhood Commercial. They wanted the ability to allow their properties be used for commercial purposes. Council member Darby questioned the wisdom of such a request but said if that’s what property owners wanted, he would not oppose it. Council member Summey had moved acceptance of the Overlay Zone almost immediately the meeting began. Council ultimately approved the Overlay but with the understanding that changes could be made before the second or third readings.

The final item on the agenda of the Finance Committee was a briefing on Roadwise. It was a full briefing noting the road projects that had been completed under the Transportation Sales Tax Program and those still underway. Nobody said it last night, but in our view, without the half-cent Sales tax and consequently the program, the County’s roads would be in a sorry state.

We won’t attempt a summary of the presentation. There is a lot of information on the County’s web site under Transportation Sales Tax. We suspect that most of the information in the presentation is on the site and the Monthly Reports on the web site show the status of projects under way. If there were anything new, it related to Maybank Highway and its intersection with River Road on Johns Island.

The original project was to construct a "pitchfork" arrangement with two roads branching from the Highway after it crossed the Stono River, with one road joining River Road to the north of the Highway and the other joining to the south. As well, there were to be improvements (“ Town and Country”) to the Highway from River Road to Bohicket Road, The overall cost was an estimated $30 million, to be borne equally by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the County.

The Committee was told last night that the FHWA would not fund its $15 million because the “Town and Country” improvements did not fit its criteria for funding. However, the funds would remain for the County to spend on other projects that met FHWA criteria.

The project now calls for the construction of the two pitchfork roads and resurfacing the Highway from River Road to Main/Bohicket Road. However, the possibility of a second inbound lane onto Johns Island from the Stono Bridge was also to be studied. The costs of these projects would be met by Roadwise and presumably would be about $15 million.

The logic of the pitchfork arrangement still holds. Presently there is considerable congestion at the intersection of Maybank Highway and River Road. Studies show that at the intersection, about 30% of traffic turns to the north, 30% to the south while 40% proceed straight ahead. The two new roads will remove about 60% of the traffic from the intersection. This traffic will still flow into River Road but north or south of the intersection.

It seemed that few if any members were concerned that the “Town and Country” part of the project would be abandoned. There was more concern as to how the $15 million FHWA funds would be directed. Council member Johnson wanted them to be directed only to Johns Island, Council member Summey had a different view.

And so did Council member Qualey. At the conclusion of the Roadwise presentation, he noted how much of the funds were not spent on James Island (which he represents). He went on to remark that there were road issues on James Island that needed to be addressed, and urgently. They related particularly to the intersections of Folly Road with Maybank Highway and with Camp Road. He pointed to the lengthy traffic lines and time for motorists to move through these intersections. People are angry, he said.

At the Recycling /Solid Waste Committee meeting, staff gave an update on the two issues still to be resolved. Studies relating to the Palmetto Commerce Parkway site are still underway. The site is a possible location for the Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) planned by the County. The purchase of more land by the Bees Ferry landfill is also moving ahead and the staff expects that it will be shortly able to draft a contract. The City of Charleston has indicated that a rezoning of the property should not be a problem. Letters from neighborhood associations who represent properties adjacent to the land support the County’s plan for the land.

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