The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance

The Watch


Individual Articles

County Council, August 16

Deliberations on future of old Naval Hospital
Northern pitchfork moves ahead, but Southern Pitchfork dead!
Warwick Jones

We don’t know the view of other Council members about what to do with the old Naval Hospital. There was no doubt about the view of Council member Qualey. Sell it now and take our loss.

Maybe other Council members had a similar view but they voted to wait out the studies by staff and consultants who would come back with options and suggestions.

So what is the County going to do? We can only speculate. We doubt that the the existing building will be renovated. The cost of renovating its 400,000 sq ft is about $66 million. And from our understanding, there is little likelihood the space, surplus to County requirements, could be leased at a rate to economically justify the renovation.

Maybe the existing building will be demolished and a new and smaller structure erected to serve the County’s purpose. Possibly part of the property will be put to another use. There are tennis and basket ball courts, and a 900 space car park.

Chairman Rawl emphasized that the Council wanted great transparency on the issue and certainty on making the right decision. Before going into a lengthy executive session of Council, he asked that members of the consulting team in attendance stand and identify themselves and their association. We think about 30 persons responded and they included County staff as well as companies'. Some companies had more than 2 members on the team. Chairman Rawl also indicated any decision made would quickly be made public.

As we have noted before, no detailed explanation has been given as to how the County blundered in this financially disastrous development. The original developer bought the property from North Charleston for $6 million. In summary, the developer agreed to renovate 3 floors and lease them to the County. The developer failed to meet deadlines for renovation completion and County “walked” from its lease. The developer filed for bankruptcy and sued the County. The Court awarded the developer hefty damages and the County agreed to pay $33 million to buy the property in full settlement.

What we don’t understand is why damages were awarded to the developer. From discussion on Council and a presentation by the developer, renovation was indeed slow and there seemed every justification for the County to walk. David Slade in an article in the Post and Courier placed the blame for the fiasco on the then Chairman, Teddie Pryor and a commitment he made. Mr. Slade may be correct but we like a fuller explanation before making a judgment.

Remember the Northern and Southern Pitchforks, roads to be constructed to ease traffic on Maybank Highway into and from Johns Island? Council agreed to the plans some 10 or more years ago, but progress has been slow - obtaining easements, approvals, environmental reports and more .

From last night’s meeting, it seems that the Northern Pitchfork is moving closer to realization. The owner of a property possibly in the way of the road has agreed to an easement for a right of way (ROW) if the road indeed goes through his property. And as the Finance Committee voted for the extra funds necessary to complete the project. It seems there are now no further impediments in completion of the project.

Comments from Chairman Rawl indicated that no progress had been made on the construction of the Southern Pitchfork. Indeed his comment was forlorn with a strong air of hopelessness. Sometime in the future, islanders will find it easier to get off the island but just as difficult to get back on.

Coincident with the creation of the easement, the FInance Committee resurrected the Greenbelt grant request that was rejected earlier this year. The request was for a $812,000 grant to create a conservation easement over the whole 48 acre property, known as Three Friars, and owned by Jimmy Kerr. As the property is close to Maybank Highway and in the way of the proposed pitchfork, the Finance Committee thought the conservation easement would threaten the latter’s creation. However with the ROW now negotiated, and encompassing only a very small part of the property, the problem was eliminated and the Committee last night approved the grant.