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City Council, April 24

Changes likely in building and zoning ordinances
Proposed annexation on Bees Ferry Road rejected
Warwick Jones

Zoning issues took up most of the discussion at yesterday’s meeting. And it is evident that as a result of flooding and other problems, some significant changes are in the works for building and zoning ordinances.

At the request of Council member Griffin, the issue of drainage of the Church Creek Basin is on the agenda of every meeting of the Committee on Public Works and Utilities. The consultant’s report and recommendations for the Basin are due shortly. Most likely, the recommendations will have application to other parts of the City, in particular James and Johns Island. And this was also the reaction to a possible moratorium on construction on Johns Island discussed at the last Committee meeting. No formal request has yet been made by the Committee for a moratorium. But is seems certain that it will be coming. And as a number of Council members noted, the changes recommended for the Basin and Johns Island should be applied throughout the City.

The Mayor has met with the Chairman of the County Council to form a group to study and implement an infrastructure plan for John Island. Last night, the Mayor noted that changes had occurred – such as severe flooding – that necessitated another look at regulations. He spoke specifically about building requirements – that the base elevation for new construction was the FEMA limit plus 1 foot. This contrasted with the County regulation of the FEMA limit plus 2 feet. Regulations needed to be updated to the new reality and the impact of tidal surges accompanying hurricanes. As Council member Wagner noted, the limit of the 100 year flood is a defining factor in construction requirements. Yet we just suffered a 1000 year flood event. The implication was something needs to be changed. He concluded that we need to look at everything.

And then there was the proposed annexation and rezoning of a 17.1 acre parcel on Bees Ferry Road. The parcel is in the County and the owners sought annexation into the County and a Limited Business classification. Normally, the passage of annexations is easy. But this one was not. It was opposed by all Council members except Council member Wagner.

It was not apparent from the public information but the owner, following the annexation and zoning, planned a 273 dwelling unit development. This was too much for most Council members and particularly Council member Griffin. He signaled immediately his opposition. The development would lead to impossible traffic conditions. Long Savannah and other developments will be adding some 4000 residential a units in future with very adverse consequences on traffic. Traffic on Glen McConnell is already at a standstill in peak morning hours. The proposed development was not needed and would make traffic conditions even more difficult. And besides, there was a dearth of commercial and industrial developments. These were much needed as there were few employment opportunities in the area.

Mayor Tecklenberg, who also opposed the annexation, said there was a need to make changes to the City’s Zoning definitions. He said that under those present, residential units could be built in industrial and commercial zones. He thought that definitions should be tightened to confine use to that indicated by the zoning e.g. Limited Industrial should be solely industrial. Staff is to work on the issue.