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City Council, March 22

Opposition to gas station development in Old Charles Towne
Apprehension over lane closure over Legare Bridge
Marc Knapp

Just as the City is moving closer to dousing the fire over Sergeant Jasper, another outbreak has occurred in West Ashley. A developer wants to put a gas station at a City “gateway”- the junction of Old Towne Road and Sam Rittenburg Highway – and the area residents don’t want it. Many attended and spoke at the City Council meeting held last night in Founder’s Hall in West Ashley. Amongst those speaking against the project were two past members of Council, Tinkler and Alexander.

But firstly, the Sergeant Jasper project. A rezoning of the property was on the agenda last night but a discussion and vote were deferred. The Mayor said that negotiations with the Beach Company over the nature of the development had made progress. Presumably a change in zoning could jeopardize progress. A report in the Post and Courier today indicated that the Beach Company shared the Mayor’s views. We presume that progress means some compromise on scale and height of the development.

The issue in West Ashley relates to the unoccupied Piggly Wiggly store at the junction of the two major roads. Under the present zoning, the developer, Faison Enterprises, has the right to build a gas station. It has tried to make it as visually appealing as possible. But as speakers pointed out, it is still a gas station. One speaker noted the retail store serving the station will be selling liquor. This was not welcome. Most of the speakers recognized the efforts of the developer to make the site attractive. But all wanted something else. The site was the “gateway” to West Ashley and being such, something better than a gas station was appropriate. One speaker suggested a park.

Mayor Tecklenburg also expressed unhappiness about the proposed development and the desire of the City to work with the developer to construct something else. But he also recognized the right of the developer to build a gas station. He also noted that the City was considering the creation of a Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) district for the area from the Citadel Mall to Highway 61. It was now thinking of extending this proposed district to the Piggly Wiggly site. Funds from a TIF are usually used for infrastructure and are normally slow to accumulate. The TIF district creation would also need permission from the County and School board. No indication was given as to how funds would be applied to the Piggly Wiggly site

We have to note there was one speaker who rose and received no applause from the attendees. He wondered about property rights. The zoning of the property allowed the owner to build a gas station – it was his right – how could residents and the City stop him? We ask the same question – of this development and that of Sergeant Jasper. Some of the citizens speaking last night seemed indignant that the developer would consider a gas station and that the City had to stop him. They seemed oblivious to property rights.

Maybe the developer will yield to political ‘suasion. Or maybe the City will buy the site. Maybe the presence of old fuel tanks on the site and their removal makes commercial development uneconomical. But it seems to us that if the developer decides that a gas station is what he wants, and he does not want to sell the site, he should be able to build it.

And an aside. The Mayor should have reminded Council members and attendees that applause is not permitted at meetings, except at presentation and recognitions. Every citizen that spoke against the gas station development enjoyed applause from many attendees. Those applauding included Council member Shahid. He should know better.

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Apprehension about the closure of a traffic lane to accommodate bike and pedestrian traffic on the Legare Bridge over the Ashley River continues. It was expressed last night by Council members Moody, Waring and Wagner. The County is about to begin a month long test of the impact of the closure on traffic flows. These Council members wondered about the nature of the test and the meaningfulness of the results.

Council member Moody noted that the test would be undertaken before the occupation of the 300 or more apartments under construction close to the entrance to the bridge. The impact of these units on traffic flows could be significant and should be taken into account. He also noted that the cost of the study has escalated from about $2 million to about $4 million. Council member Waring said that the traffic flow across the bridge was only one issue. Delays at the bridge spilled all the way down Highway 17. The impact on the roads feeding onto the bridge also needed to be assessed.

We share the apprehension of the Council members and whatever the tests might indicate, we feel the frequent heavy traffic congestion along Highway 17 and on the bridge will become even more frequent after the closure of the lane. Creating opportunities for cyclists and walkers is good and noble. But there will be a lot, if not a majority of citizens who feel that the lane closure and the concomitant traffic impact will be a too high a price.

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