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City Council, May 8

No residential use allowed in industrial zonings
Police Advisory Council formed
Marc Knapp

It was not the longest of meetings. But it took some time for Council to get down to business.

First there was the presentations by the History Commission/Rainbow Group and their plan to make more details of the history of Charleston natives available for tourists and others. And then there was the resolution “recognizing the continuing relationship with the City of Speightstown, Barbados, a sister City of the City of Charleston”.

The Rainbow Group was conceived out of an idea of Mr. John Rivers following an experience in London. Emulating that experience, he sought to have recordings of the life of Charleston’s “famous” notables playable at appropriate sites in Charleston.

For example, at the Denmark Vesey memorial, visitors could activate a recording which would purport to be the voice of Denmark Vesey recounting his life and purpose. There were a large number of other notables whose memorialization was proposed and as far as we can tell, all were black.

The Rainbow Group would work with the City’s History Commission and would ensure the accuracy and absence of political bias. But politics was not far away. Council member Gregorie reminded Council that the History Commission was responsible to the Recreation Committee and all proposals that related to memorials on City property must come first to his Committee.

The presentation by the folk from Barbados seemed to turn into a party at its end. Goodwill and bonhomie were liberally dispensed. But what was missing, though referred to frequently, was Mount Gay Rum. Barbados’s ambassador to the US was the principal speaker who predictably gave a warm speech with references to friendship, history and rum. We particularly enjoyed the short speech from historian from Barbados who reminded us that the “Charleston single” house was a Barbados concept.
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Mayor Tecklenberg signaled at the last Council meeting that he proposed to make changes to zoning categories. In particular, he wanted to confine uses in the Industrial zonings to just that - industrial. There would be no right to residential uses.

Last night, Council agreed to a first reading of a zoning amendment that would remove “residential uses, nursing and personal care issues and school uses, from the Light Industrial (LI) and Heavy Industrial (HI) zone districts”.

The proposal seemed to have the support of Council though Council member Moody thought there were circumstances whereby residential uses to some extent would be justified in these zonings. He also spoke about changes to other zonings to limit uses.

Council member Seekings was the first to give a warning. What was proposed would take away a right of all those that owned Industrial properties. Effectively, the City was proposing a taking. There could be property owners who objected and would initiate legal action. As staff noted, there were some 360 properties with HI and LI zonings. The City needed to tread carefully on what it proposed.

From what the Mayor said, proposals for more changes in Zoning and perhaps the creation of other zoning districts were being considered. But as Council member Wagner noted, the City had 44 zoning districts already. He thought that 10 to 15 would be more appropriate

Council voted 7 to 2 for the first reading with Council members Moody and Gregorie (?) against. We suspect there will be changes proposed before the second reading.
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Council approved the formation of the Citizen Police Advisory Council. There were 6 pages in the information package on the City’s web site much of which proclaimed the noble objectives, aims, methods, meetings, and members of the Commission. We’ll simply quote the purpose.

The Advisory Council serves to facilitate the involvement of the residents representing neighborhoods and communities in our city in order to improve policing and strengthen the connection between the citizens and the Charleston Police Department

Chief Reynolds addressed Council and stated his support for the Advisory Council. The Mayor proposed a 24 member committee which would include one representative nominated by each Council member, 8 members by the Mayor and 3 High School seniors. This was too many members to be a functioning body. So the Mayor offered to cut his appointments to four and the high school representatives by one.

Still seems too large a body in our opinion!
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Finally, I spoke in Citizens Participation and noted my work has taken me to the Gadsden Green Housing development. It is a deplorable mess with major water and sewage problems. My advice is to tear down the housing and build anew. It is valuable land and perhaps selling the land and erecting Section 8 housing elsewhere may be a good proposition. But whatever, living conditions there are awful.

And then there is the continuing problem of non-synchronization of traffic lights on 17 South. So many of us must wait in the morning wondering why we are facing a red light while every light in front of us is green – and there is no traffic entering the highway from either side. We note that a Traffic Signal Retiming Report was on the agenda of the Traffic and Transportation Committee but no comment was made to the Ways and Means Committee. So it seems, somebody at least recognizes there is a problem.