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City Council, December 14

Fond farewells for the Mayor
Some rezoning issues
Warwick Jones

It was Mayor Riley day at the City Council meeting yesterday. It was his final day as Mayor after a tenure of some 40 years. As expected, many citizens attended the meeting to give their best wishes and praise his achievements. There might have been more speaking last night if not for the fact that many citizens had already expressed their feelings at earlier Council meetings.

Last night’s meeting included a sort of formal farewell. On the agenda was a resolution honoring the Mayor’s distinguished service.

During the four decades as Mayor of his beloved City, Joseph P. Riley Jr. has served the citizens of Charleston with a great mind and a servant’s heart . With selfless dedication and the strength of his conviction to pursue the common good, he has aspired to excellence in every endeavor and has inspired all around him to do so as well………

Mayor Riley has been a builder not only of the human spirit but also of the physical environment which collectively help bind our City together as one. Therefore, it is with the greatest admiration and affection that we, the last City Council to have the honor to serve with him, adopt this Resolution on behalf of the Citizens of Charleston to express the City’s eternal gratitude to Joseph P. Riley, Jr. for his extraordinary public service and direct as an expression of our esteem and appreciation that Waterfront Park be named in his honor and henceforth be known as Joe Riley Waterfront Park.

Council also noted its intention of creating a memorial in the park in the Mayor’s and that some $10,000 had been donated by present and past Council members to fund its creation.

The Mayor responded graciously and thankfully. He spoke of the “wonderful’ colleagues and the quality of his staff. His response was relatively brief and this might had something to do with the severe cold from which he suffering. His response was followed by a presentation from Staff. It acknowledged the role he had played in progressively honoring long serving staff members. In that light, staff was awarding the Mayor a pin indicating his 40 years’ service to the City.

A number of citizens rose in Citizens Participation to congratulate the Mayor on his service and wish him well. It also brought out Mr. John Darby of the Beach Company. His purpose was not praise for the Mayor but clarification of what was expected of the Beach Company in meetings this week with interested parties relating to the development of the Sergeant Jasper property. The property is being redeveloped by the Beach Company but its plans have been thwarted. Its original PUD application was rejected by the BAR and neighborhood groups and the BAR did not approve its latest application. Last month the City Council refused to endorse a Planning Commission decision to lower the height limitation. Legally at least, the Beach Company retains the right to construct a tall building.

If Mr. Darby is confused, as seems likely, the reply by the Mayor probably did little to help. I think the Mayor was unprepared for the question for his response was long, convoluted and with thoughts loosely connected. I think a simple summary might be “compromise” – reduce the scale of the buildings and rethink the grocery store concept.

There were also a number of other zoning issues before Council last night

  • The Village at Fenwick. This is a major development on Johns Island involving the construction of 608 dwelling units. The developer is proposing a PUD to replace the existing zonings of the included parcels which are Diverse Residential, General Business and General Office. The development is adjacent to the western prong of the proposed pitchfork road design, to alleviate traffic congestion along Maybank Highway. Staff noted that the developers had the right to construct 850 dwelling units under the existing zoning. Council voted unanimously to approve the development.
  • The creation of a PUD to cover the development of Concord Park area (aka Ansonborough Field) The creation of the PUD in itself was not a concern, particularly as much of the area has been developed. The final building in the plan is to contain both market rate and affordable housing. But the developer is seeking to reduce “on site” parking requirements. This was strongly opposed by some residents of the area. We are not sure of the total number of units planned but we think it is about 80. We do not know the designation of the units. The PUD would allow the parking requirement for market rate housing to be reduced from 1.5 spaces to 1 space per unit. Parking spaces for affordable housing units would be one for 4 units. However, the developer would create 10 “on street” undesignated parking spaces on internal roads to be constructed. Citizens spoke of parking fears. There was a parking garage adjacent to the aquarium but it was often full. There already were parking problems with visitors to the Aquarium, the Maritime Center and residents of existing dwelling units. The area also has to brace for traffic created by the planned African American Museum which would not have parking facilities. Council member White who represents the area spoke in support of the citizens. He sought and gained a deferral to see if he could craft some compromise with the residents and the developer.
  • The change of an Old City Height District 55/30 to 80/30 for a parcel within a 1.33 acre development comprising parcels between Meeting and King Streets, and adjacent to Huger Street. The Planning Commission approved a change in the zoning from Light Industrial and General Business to Mixed Use Work force Housing but balked at a change in the height district. There seemed no opposition to the changes overall to MU-1/WH but some also supported the change in the height district. The City was opposed to any height changes as the final nature of the development had not been agreed upon. At this stage, some flexibility was needed in determining the final shape of the development. Maybe a height adjustment was appropriate but let’s wait a little, the City was saying. Considering the importance of the location and the hope to also create a park, the City need to move carefully. The issue was deferred.
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