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County Council, May 20

No tax increase for major funds in FY2015 budget
Amendments made to proposed Folly Road overlay
Warwick Jones

There was little contention in last night’s discussion over the FY 2015 budget. Staff gave a presentation, and although a lengthy discussion followed, there was no heat. Of course there may be in the next Council session. Council member Darby suggested that the 1.8% Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) be modified – that staff earning over $100,000 a year receive 1% and those earning less, 2%. He subsequently suggested a further modification which we think was a 1.5% rate for those between $100,000 and $50,000. Discussion on the proposal will wait until the staff estimates the cost to the County.

Firstly, no tax increases were proposed for the General or Debt Service Funds. The only millage increases proposed were for West St. Andrews Fire District – Operating, up to 3.7, from 3.6 in FY2014 and Debt Service, up to 0.9, from 0.6. Awendaw Fire Debt millage rate goes to 4. It was 0 last year.

Appropriations of the County General Fund are expected to rise by $1.9 million to $195.9 million and for Debt Service by $4.1 million to $28.4million. Those for the Special Revenues Fund are projected to rise $3.5 million to $100.3 million and for Enterprise Funds, fall by $6.5 million to $28.7 million

General Fund revenues are expected to be hit again by a fall in the contribution from Intergovernmental Funds. Revenue in FY 2015 is expected to be $22.3 million, a fall of $3.5 million. Not all of this reflects lower contributions from the state. The County will receive less from municipalities under the agreement relating to the introduction of Consolidate Dispatch. Fortunately, the property tax base is rising and property taxes are projected to rise $5.8 million to $132.9 million. The Local Option Sales Tax rebate is also expected to rise, by $2.5 million to $ 53.5 million.

Press Download file to see a 5 year projection of County Revenues.

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The Folly Road Overlay District came up for its final reading. Council member Johnson proposed some amendments at Council meeting some weeks ago. A public hearing on the amendments were held recently and despite some dispute as to the views that the public expressed, most of her amendments were adopted last night. However, some members were strongly opposed and the amendments were adopted with a 5 to 4 vote.

The zoning overlay was intended to bring some uniformity to zoning along Folly Road. The road passes through four jurisdictions – the County, Towns of James Island and Folly Beach and the City of Charleston. The originally proposed overlay was prepared by County staff and after public hearings and discussions with staff of the other three jurisdictions over a number of years. As we said in our report a month ago, the amendments proposed by Council member Johnson were a surprise given the time and effort put into the preparation of the overlay.

In simple terms, Council member Johnson wanted to allow citizens who owned property along the corridor, which was in the County and zoned Neighborhood Preservation (NP) to be able to develop their properties for a commercial use. This development was also extended to allow hotel/motels with up to 10 rooms. The affected properties lie along Folly Road, north of the Town of Folly Beach but south of Grimball Road.

The majority of citizens who spoke last night did not want the change. They wanted the area to remain NP, essentially residential. We thought the comments of Council member Schweers and Rawl were appropriate. The former could sympathize with the residents and indeed he would vote for the retention of the NP designation. But he said the properties lent themselves to commercial development and the NP zoning could easily be changed in future. Council member Rawl went further and although he did not use these words, he clearly thought it crazy that anybody would contemplate a residential zoning along a busy road such as Folly. He voted for the amendments.

Council member Qualey also took issue with Chairman Pryor who conducted the recent public hearing and who claimed that the majority of participants wanted the Commercial zoning. The Council member noted that only residents of the affected area were allowed to speak. This restriction was wrong he said.

No Council member addressed the issue of the hotels and motels which we think could be a bigger issue than the zoning. These are not allowed in a NB zoning.

Interestingly, two members of the City of Charleston Council spoke last night. They asked for a deferral. The City was eligible to receive a $500,000 grant from the COG to study the Folly Road issues. The request of the County went nowhere. Considering the efforts, public hearings and degree of coordination, Council members probably thought that another $500,000 of effort was a waste of time and money.
The amendments adopted last night were:

1. Revise the applicable Overlay Zoning District maps and language to indicate that the unincorporated parcels in the Neighborhood Preservation Area are zoned Neighborhood Commercial and all uses as allowed in the Neighborhood Commercial Zoning District are allowed on these properties with the exception of the uses prohibited in the Overlay Zoning District. The Neighborhood Preservation Area shall also include the properties with frontage along Old Folly road.

2. Revise the applicable Overlay Zoning District language to indicate that hotel/motel uses with a maximum limit of 10 guest rooms are permitted on unincorporated properties in the Neighborhood Preservation Areas.

3. Revise the language in Section 5.6.5., Coordination with Adjacent Jurisdictions, to delete the language regarding letters of coordination and clarify the letters of notification to adjacent jurisdictions will be required as part of all land development applications to ensure each jurisdiction is aware of proposed development.

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