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City Council, October 14

Bike Rack and Bar Moratorium amendments finalized
Confusion over proposed Urban Growth Boundary change
Marc Knapp

The agenda for last night’s Council meeting was lean. And with no presentations and recognitions, the meeting was relatively short. There were only a few things of note.

The ordinances extending the bike rack program further along King Street, and a temporary 12 month moratorium on new bars and restaurants in the “Late night Bar Moratorium Area” were given their second and final readings. Citizens Participation brought out only a few speakers and most had comments on the bike rack program.

The present City ordinance seeks to stop cyclists from parking their bikes on sidewalks in a way that impedes pedestrian traffic. It stipulates impoundment and a fine of $45 to recover the bike. The problem of bike parking has been particularly acute along King Street and the City has moved to place parking racks in Upper King Street. The ordinance was amended last night to extend the bike rack program from Calhoun to Market Streets.

Speakers from the Coastal Conservation League and Charleston Moves were not opposed to the bike rack program but they thought the City’s ordinance was too harsh. They noted that the fine for illegal parking was $45, a hefty amount for some. It also compared with a $25 fine for texting while driving an automobile, with the implication that the penalties were out of whack with the seriousness of the infractions. One speaker also noted that the device used to secure a bike was cut when it was impounded. The cost of replacement was not negligible.

The Mayor noted that the ordinance was to be applied gradually. Offending parked pikes would be tagged in the early months, effectively giving owners notice of the new ordinance and the existence of bike racks. Council member Alexander thought Council should consider registering all bikes in the City, which in his recollection was mandatory some decades ago. Council member Wilson, confessing to her very modest recall of bike history, stated that only a few owners complied with the law and it was scrapped.

Council member Waring had sympathy for the bike owners and suggested that the fine be waived and the securing device just cut. The cost of replacement of the device would presumably be the penalty. He didn’t go much further in his comment. But if the bike were to be left where it was, it becomes an easy theft. Perhaps most cyclists would prefer their bike impounded and recoverable for $45.

In contrast with other recent Council meetings, the moratorium on new bars and restaurants drew only one speaker. He represented the neighborhood most affected by new bars and restaurants and predictably, he spoke in favor of the moratorium. The moratorium amendment was opposed by Council members Wilson, Alexander and Waring. Council member Riegel was absent last night.

Changes in the location of the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) can be contentious. The proposed change by the City got our attention last night. The change related to a change in the boundary to include a 20.6 acre block on Main Road on Johns Island. The owner wishes to develop the lot, to provide for 50 residential lots. To achieve the owner’s plan, the parcel would need to be annexed into the City and rezoned Single Family residential. And to be able to be eligible for sewage, water and other facilities, the parcel has to be on the urban side of the City’s UGB.

Municipalities and the County define the boundaries of UGBs. That of the County and the City of Charleston are similar but there are places where there are differences. And one of the differences related to the 20.6 acre lot. It was on the urban side of the County's boundary, but on the rural side of the City's.

The municipalities and the County agree that their UGB’s should ideally be identical. It was with that in mind largely, that the County, in the Comprehensive Plan 5 year Review now being completed, adopted the City’s UGB boundary to exclude the 20.6 acre parcel. And of course last night, the City was being asked to effectively move the boundary to where the County had it before the Comprehensive Plan Review.

This was too much for Council and the issue was deferred.

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