Speak out onbid to changezoning rules

Speak out onbid to changezoning rules


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

On Wednesday, the city of Charleston Planning Commission will host a public meeting on a proposed amendment to the city’s Zoning Ordinance that will affect development in Charleston forever. The ordinance would give developers a chance to move through the permit process faster by changing the role of the Commercial Corridor Design Review Board. Currently, projects in the CCDRB district must get approval from the board before they can move forward with acquiring any building permits.

Essentially, the proposed ordinance amends the current ordinance by placing review of projects within the district to the “administrative officer” (a city planning staff member). The board would become an appellate body with the exception of demolitions, which would still need board approval.

If the ordinance is adopted, big controversial projects, including the Angel Oak Village Development would not have to go through CCDRB. An objective of the CCDRB, as stated in the city’s municipal code, is to “protect and enhance the city’s natural beauty, visual character and charm.” Why on earth would anyone ever propose to eliminate such a necessary part of the permit review process?

The board is comprised of seven members — including four design professionals, at least one registered architect, at least one registered landscape architect, one professional engineer, and a Realtor. They are an unbiased group that exists to make sure that Charleston maintains its unique charm by ensuring development is done in a responsible way.

Interestingly, the Angel Oak Development did go before the CCDRB several times, but plans were either denied or deferred due to members’ concerns over development completely out of character with rural Johns Island, among other issues.

Tim Keane, who worked as a private contractor for the developer of Angel Oak Village until the summer of 2009, presented the plans to the CCDRB that were not approved. Keane then became the director of planning for the city at the end of November that same year. As director of planning for the city, he is presenting this amendment for its elimination to the City Planning Commission.

In April 2009, Keane presented plans for Angel Oak Village to the CCDRB that were rejected. From a Post and Courier article about the meeting in April 2009: “Board member Patrick Pernell was highly critical. ‘The plan has a long way to go,’ he said, saying the scale and mass of buildings is still too much. He likened plans ‘to the 1970s.’

” ‘There is no suspense, no sense of destination and I don’t feel any sense of space. Behind the buildings is a sea of asphalt,’ Pernell said.”

In June 2009, The Post and Courier published another story about the Angel Oak Village development in which Mr. Keane was quoted:

“Tim Keane, Charleston’s former planning director who now runs the design firm handling the development, called the plan ‘one of those rare victories for public planning,’ and said it meshed with regional development goals developed through years of community meetings on Johns Island.”

It seems as if the director of city planning and the CCDRB have different standards when reviewing development, which is proof enough that it takes more than one person to review a development. I think we can all agree that Charleston is one of the most charming cities in the country. Why risk losing that? What could we possibly gain from “streamlining” this process?

The board is unpaid, so we aren’t wasting any tax dollars on them. Charleston is certainly not lacking in developers willing to go through the process. City employees would actually be working longer hours by reviewing a project that would have normally taken a board of seven knowledgeable people to review.

The City of Charleston Planning Commission meeting will be held at 5 p.m. on Wednesday in the Meeting Room, Third Floor at 75 Calhoun St. (Charleston County School District Building). Please come out and voice your opinion.

Samantha J. Siegel is S.C. Chapter Conservation and Development Coordinator for the Sierra Club, and a co-founder of savetheangeloak.org.

Read the Post&Courier article [here]

  • Share/Bookmark