Advocacy Update: Laurel Island PUD and St. Julian Devine Smokestacks
preservation-admin , September 23, 2020
Last night, City Council gave first reading to the Laurel Island PUD, despite the community’s objections to the lack of public engagement and call for further refinement of the PUD. The PSC’s concerns were echoed by numerous members of the community who submitted comments and spoke at the meeting, and points from our remarks were picked up by several Council members in their discussion. Thank you for standing with us.
As this single project could double the population of the peninsula, we wish that Council had spoken more about the work that needs to be done on the PUD as currently drafted, but hope for further discussion before the next reading by Council.
The PSC specifically brought to the attention of Council that the PUD, as proposed, cedes an unprecedented level of zoning authority to the developer. As the PUD still fails to provide a detailed land use plan, a key requirement of the zoning ordinance, the developer can modify the illustrated plan of a healthy mix of uses with 4,260 dwelling units to well over 11,000 dwelling units without community conversation or even Council review. Council called for this issue to be explored and addressed.
Other key recommendations by the PSC included extending the timeline for non-permanent workforce housing units from 10 years to 25 years, clarifying a 39.2 acre minimum of usable green space, and conducting a more detailed traffic analysis on neighborhood streets to better understand livability impacts.
While members of Council stated that the community will have additional opportunities for input as this project is built out, that is not actually how a PUD works. Once approved, the zoning characteristics such as uses and densities will be vested as part of the property’s entitlements. The community will not have the same opportunity that it does now to help shape the essential nature of this development as it evolves over the decades to come.
The PSC is encouraged that Council recognized the need for more robust community engagement before the proposal moves forward. Council recommended that a public workshop be held in the coming weeks to allow for additional community input. As many in the community remain unaware of this project or its magnitude, it is important to spread the word on this final opportunity to learn and speak up. As always, we will keep you informed on the details of how you can participate. Stay tuned.
Although advertised as “deferred” on this week’s City Council agendas, the discussion on the future of the St. Julian Devine Community Center smokestacks in Charleston’s Eastside neighborhood was taken up by Council during the meeting of the Ways and Means committee, which is held immediately prior to the regular meeting of Council. As a result, neither directly-affected Eastside residents, nor the more than 2,000 concerned citizens who signed the petition to save the smokestacks were prepared to tune in to the conversation.
We strongly encourage you to listen to the latest updates on the City’s proposal to partially demolish the structures. To do so, advance to minute mark 21:25 of the Ways and Means Committee meeting. While no vote was taken, Council discussed potential re-allocation of Cooper River TIF District Funds to cover the estimated $2.8 million necessary to fully preserve the smokestacks. Council members are largely divided in their stance on the issue, but vowed to take action at the next meeting of Council on October 13.
It is critical that we have a strong turnout on October 13 to communicate to Council the value of the smokestacks to the community. Please spread the word and contact your City Council representative to urge them to preserve the smokestacks.
CONTACT YOUR CITY COUNCIL MEMBER TODAY