CCDRB Unanimously DENIED Angel Oak Village’s application

Thank you all so much for your support!

The Commercial Corridor Design Review Board unanimously denied Angel Oak Village’s application for conceptual design approval!

Last Thursday Charleston’s Commercial Corridor Design Review Board made a very wise and important decision.  They voted unanimously to reject a development proposal that threatens the Angel Oak Tree, and even the future of Johns Island.

The Board concluded that the Angel Oak Village, with its three and four story apartment buildings, was out of scale with the traditional settlement on Johns Island and, for that matter, with any rural village or town anywhere in the Lowcountry.  The street level drawings of the project looked more like the streets of downtown Atlanta, where buildings tower over the roads and sidewalks.

The Board is charged with determining whether the design of new projects, including height, scale and mass, are consistent with citizens’ visions and plans for the city.  In the case of Angel Oak Village, they must conform to the future vision for Johns Island.

Charleston city planner Christopher Morgan showed the board drawings of the types of buildings that conformed with the Johns Island plan.  They were all two story buildings with traditional Lowcountry architecture.  Then, inexplicably, he said that the city supported the Angel Oak Village project, even though the developer’s drawings and plans, with their enormous structures, had nothing in common with the city’s images.

The Board listened to more than one hour of presentations by the city, by the developer and his architects and engineers, and then to brief comments from members of the public who objected to the project.  When the presentations were over, each board member expressed his or her thoughts about the proposed Angel Oak Village.  Every one of them raised insightful points about the project’s impact on the Angel Oak and its lack of compatibility with the surroundings, the Johns Island plan, and the wishes of the community.

We were impressed and grateful that the board comprehensively addressed legal and factual questions and that they genuinely seemed to care about the future of Johns Island.

Their decision on Thursday opens the door for a positive resolution to the question of development on this site.  Those of us who have opposed the project look forward to working with the city and the developer on a design that is best for the community and for the Angel Oak.

We have three primary concerns about the project.  First, Angel Oak Village is simply too intense and massive to be on the edge of the urban growth boundary and next to this extraordinary tree.  We would like the developer to substantially reduce the density of the project.  Second, we would like him to protect the wetlands on the site, rather than filling more than four acres.  Third, we would like him to put a much larger buffer between the development and the Angel Oak.  A buffer that independent arborists and hydrologists agree will definitively protect the tree from any harm.

We pledge to work with the developer and the city to bring the best planning firm available to develop a new proposal that we can all support.  It is hard to imagine a place that is more worthy of this type of effort.

What if we could, for the first time in history, begin to realize that human beings survival upon this planet within this vast and enormous universe depends only on how consciously we act to preserve and protect our environment?  All forms of life depend on each other.  Life attracts other life.  If we can all pull together to protect the Angel Oak, we will have proven that we can do the type of hard work necessary to protect the Lowcountry.  Furthermore, if the existence of the Angel Oak has proved anything, it has proved that anything is possible.

Never underestimate the power of a single letter to influence corporate decisions and sway public officials.  By speaking up, you will be heard.  It is so easy for people to look the other way and leave the problem for someone else to handle.  My hope is that we can all pull together to preserve this wonderful place that we call home; and in the end, we WILL win.

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