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City Council, September 27

Developer surprises City and opponents
Voting by phone more strictly proscribed

Marc Knapp

Some residents of James Island were looking for a fight. They were very unhappy about the development on Maybank Highway that began life under a Gathering Place (GP) Zoning but now a Planned Unit Development. They thought that proposed was still too dense and large, and that too many trees were being sacrificed. They wanted the project to go before the Design Review Board, even though it seemed there was no legal liability for it to do so.

We think they were surprised when the developer, through its representative, said it wanted to work with the community and the project would be submitted to the DRB.

We sympathize with the James Islanders that were unhappy with the project but at the same time, property owners have rights. The situation has some commonality with the Sergeant Jasper Development. The original development plans were drawn up under the original zonings and because of this, the developers have legal rights that stop the City from imposing new zonings.

Maybe the developer has not acquiesced to all the requests of the City or citizens, but it certainly seems to have been cooperative. As the representative pointed out last night, the project could entail a 650 - unit development but it has been scaled down to about 270 units and with a reduction in footprint and an increase in open space.

The City endorsed the plan submitted last night by the developer. But with the offer by the developer to go before the DRB, the Mayor moved that a vote on the project be deferred and Council complied unanimously
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The participation in Council meetings by telephone was clarified with the confirmation of the amended ordinance last night. Telephone participation by members will only be permitted in meetings called because of “emergencies” or special meetings because of “exigent circumstances”.

The review of the ordinance was precipitated by the Council meeting when the vote on the Legare Bridge lane closure was taken. The vote was 7 to 6 in favor. Council member Williams participated in the meeting by phone and voted for the closure. Some Council members thought his vote should not have been allowed. Under the amended ordinance it seems it would not have been.

Although telephone participation in Council meetings as been more strictly proscribed, ‘phone participation in Committee meetings, except Ways and Means, is permitted. But notice must be given to the Clerk of Council of the intent. And if there is an executive session, a Council member must declare that nobody except the Council member is listening to the session.
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The Mayor announced his intention of forming a West Ashley Revitalization Commission early in his tenure. He probably never thought it would take so long to come to fruition. His original suggestions as to the structure and membership ran into much opposition on Council. It was shuffled a number of times but the structure returned to close to the original proposal. Last night, the appointments to the Commission were announced, at least to Council members. All were approved and accompanied with compliments, and apologies for opposing the Mayor’s original plan.

The Post and Courier published today a full list of Commissioner names. They included Mayor Tecklenberg, Council members Shahid, Lewis, and Wagner, County Council member Condon, County Planning Commissioner Charlie Smith, and former City Council member Ann Frances Bleecker. The remaining members include a lawyer, businessmen, and a neighborhood president.

Now the items that were not on the agenda:

  • CARTA has received a grant from a Federal Agency of $6.7 million. Council member Seekings told Council at the conclusion of last night’s meeting that the funds would be used to buy new buses.
  • Council meetings will be streamed live in the near future. Presently the meetings are archived and available for viewing on completion. The live streaming will be through the City website.
  • A citizen who funded a concert program for the Moja Arts Festival stands to lose $57,000. The original promoter pulled out unexpectedly but the financial obligation was taken on by another. The City was asked to step up and help financially. Council member Mitchell made sympathetic noises but Council seemed unmoved. After all, the promoter reaps the profit from the program, not the City. The Mayor said the structure of the Moja Arts festival – a mix of City and private sponsored events – needed review.
  • A citizen spoke of the grief and hardship of a son who was drug addicted. She sought support for a movement to aid rehabilitation of such addicts. Her son went through a year-long program and separation from his family. He returned to school cured but reported that many of his peers were drug users. The drugs were not those from Mexico but prescription drugs seemingly commonly available. His struggle is hard.
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