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City Council, October 28

Residents seek more changes to Upper Wando development
A Farmer’s Market for West Ashley?
Marc Knapp

Zoning issues were the focus of Council discussion and Citizens Participation last night. The most important was that relating to the development of 70.4 acres on the Upper Wando. A number of citizens spoke of the need for changes to the proposed Planned Unit Development (PUD) but Council unanimously agreed to give the ordinance a first reading. Council members noted that differences remained between the developer and near-by residents but hoped that most of these could be eliminated by the time the ordinance came back for second and final readings. The ordinance is yet to be reviewed by the Planning Commission and it too may make changes.

The property is owned by the Beach Company. Under the proposed PUD, 20% of the land will be set aside as open space and the remaining acreage developed with densities of 8 to 12 units per acre. A representative of the developer noted that there had been extensive meetings with the community and that changes had been made to original proposal. Some of the residents of the area acknowledged the willingness of the developer to amend its original plans. But clearly, residents wanted more changes.

All the speakers, including a representative of the Coastal Conservation League (CCL) called for a reduction in building density. Surrounding densities were of the order of 2 or 3 dwellings per acre. Also noted was the fact that some 17 acres of wetlands were included in the 21 acres set aside for open space. Federal regulations prohibited construction on these wetlands so why were they included in the 20% open space requirement? They were already protected! CCL also was concerned about the 30 lots created along the Wando River and the scope for 30 docks. It noted that this was a sensitive part of the river and this may be too much development. Others spoke of traffic problems.

The parcel of land is in Berkeley County but will be annexed into the City.

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The issue of rezoning the parcel of land that hosts the memorial to the firefighters that died in the Sofa Store fire took an unusual twist. As noted in our comments last month, Turkys Towing planned to relocate its operations to the site but the move was vigorously opposed be many of the residents in the area behind Highway 17. As a result, Turkys has apparently abandoned its plans and according to speakers last night, is prepared to sell the site. What is now interesting is that residents are supporting the creation of a Farmers Market for the site. And more surprising is that they have lined up considerable political and financial support.

Mr. Charles Smith, a resident of the area noted that County Council member Colleen Condon supported the move. He and others hoped that a joint initiative of the County and the City could buy the land leading to the creation of a market. He also noted that the Community Loan Foundation supported the effort and under its charter, could lend up to $500,000 for the project. The Parks Conservancy also supported the effort.

We think a farmers market for the site has a lot of appeal. It certainly would be a more appealing neighbor to the Firefighters Memorial than a tow truck operation or a car lot as the site is presently. What Mr. Turky wants for the site we do not know, but we believe he paid some $1.5 million. With strong citizen support, raising this amount of money should be possible.

If we have a concern, it relates to parking. If the market proves popular, and we suspect it will, it could generate a lot of traffic. Where will the cars go? The residential community behind the site would not be very welcoming of many cars. But with almost 2 acres, there is probably room to create a significant parking area.

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Council member Wagner wasn’t happy about the deferral of the zoning and annexation of the 20.62 acre parcel on Main Road, Johns Island. The issue would normally be straight forward but it was complicated by the locations of Urban Growth Boundaries (UGB). The UGB of the County has the lot on its urban side and the City has the lot of its rural side. To bring the boundaries into conformity, the County planned in the revision of its Comprehensive Plan to move its UGB to coincide with that of the City. To add more complexity, the City is now proposing to adopt the County’s old location. This issue was discussed at the last Council meeting.

Being on the urban side of the UGB is important as development is more restricted on the rural side in both the City and County ordinances. And the owner wants to develop his lot. There are also issues of the provision of water and sewage.

Council agreed to take up the issue of rezoning and annexation at it next meeting. We won’t predict the outcome but there certainly seemed some support last night to meet the land owner’s request.

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Another item of interest from last night’s meeting was the deferral by the Real Estate Committee of approval to issue a new license agreement to Carolina Polo and Carriage Company for use of the City’s Horse Barn at Hampton Park. It seems the company has not met its financial commitments to the City.

The City is seeking a $32,500 Promissory Note to be signed by Robert R. Knoth, the principal of Carolina Polo and Carriage Company, and Arkay LLC. We believe the note covers what is presently owed to the City. As well, the City is seeking a Mortgage from Mr. Knoth and Arkay LLC over the 45 Pinckney Street property.

We understand that the carriage company is under financial strain presently and that the City, reluctantly, is giving
the company to time to get its house in order. But the interest rate on both the Promissory Note and Mortgage will be at penalty levels.

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