From all of us at the Preservation Society, we hope you and your families had a wonderful Independence Day. July marks the turn of our fiscal year and the start of the steady slide into dog days of summer. While outings and vacations are rightly on the minds of many, our focus remains on the issues impacting our city.
Keep Charleston REAL
Resilient. Engaged. Authentic. Livable.
Amid unprecedented growth and the fundamental changes it is bringing to Charleston, the Preservation Society has redoubled its efforts to concentrate on promoting transparency in decision-making, as well as educating and informing the community, empowering people to speak up.
The foundation of these efforts is our revamped website. It is now able to serve as the go-to source for the latest aggregated news on the growth-related, planning, preservation, and quality of life issues facing the city; it features an advocacy toolkit to assist community members with getting involved and weighing in; and it expands on efforts to Keep Charleston REAL, outlining advocacy goals of the Society and providing links to relevant articles and websites. We invite you to peruse these components and the website as a whole.
The Short-Term Rental Task Force met on July 11. At this meeting, Kristopher King, a member of the committee, began by expressing concern and asking for improved clarity of purpose, and he cautioned against the suddenly expedited time frame.
The group has existed for a year and only met four times, and it is now being pushed to develop its recommendations by the end of summer. The purpose of the task force is to evaluate current ordinances, gather public input, and collaborate with the City and its consultants to arrive at recommendations to take to Planning Commission and City Council. The Society shares the concern of numerous task force members that the group has not had the opportunity to successfully fulfill any of the objectives. To develop thoughtful and comprehensive recommendations in two meetings is unrealistic. Fortunately, the task force agreed with the Society’s concerns and has begun to address this by scheduling additional meetings.
The Society also feels that the residents and the neighborhoods have not been adequately heard from on this issue. The public listening sessions were packed with owners, operators, and those involved in the industry, but those who could or do live next door to these commercial operations have not had their voice heard, hence our Advocacy Alert from last week.
If you have not already, please take 5 minutes and share your opinion on this matter, and encourage your neighbors to do the same. It is imperative that the residents be heard on this before any recommendations are made.
Hotels and Affordable Housing Updates
Last Tuesday, City Council considered changes to the hotel and affordable housing ordinances.
Council adopted all but one of the changes that Planning Commission recommended for the zoning test required of new hotels. Once the amendments become official, new hotels will have to ensure that they can handle their guest pick-up and drop-off with a safe, efficient valet system; that there is long term provision of on- or off-site parking for the maximum number of employees who might drive to work during peak operations; and that they incentivize employees’ use of public transportation. What did not pass was the provision requiring hotels outside the central accommodations zone to provide shuttle services to the Peninsula.
Regarding affordable housing, City Council considered the following recommendations from Planning Commission: maintain the required percentage of affordable housing units in a development utilizing either of the MU-WH zoning designations at 15%, but increase the required length of time those units would need to remain affordable from 10 years to 15 years. The commission deferred to City Council to resolve the amount of the fee developers could pay instead of building affordable units.
Council upped the percentage of units and the duration they would need to stay affordable, from 15% to 20%, and from 15 years to 25 years, respectively. The fee was settled on at 5% of development costs, a number which apartment and condo builders assert is so high as to potentially deter the use of the MU-WH zoning designation.
Help Save the Historic Tax Credit
The Historic Tax Credit is a federal economic incentive program behind millions of dollars of annual community investment through the rehabilitation of historic buildings. In many cases, preservation simply would not be feasible without the credit. The Society has worked in support of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s advocacy on this initiative, and now you can join the cause.
For more detailed information on the HTC advocacy messages, tools, and activities of the National Trust and its partners, please visit the Preservation Leadership Forum blog, and if you are really interested in learning more, sign up for the historic tax credit advocacy webinar on July 20.
Preservation Month Matching Gift Challenge Success!
Thanks to you, our members and community, we not only met our $50,000 Matching Gift Challenge for Preservation Month, but you exceeded it by more than $24,000!
In all, donors like you made 213 gifts, totaling $74,530 towards the challenge. With two generous donors matching an additional $50,000, your grand total came to $124,530. Thank you for your generosity and your commitment to Keep Charleston REAL. We could not have done it without you!
The Society is committed to reducing the overall tourism footprint of the Fall Tours and increasing the appeal to locals, all while continuing to generate financial support for our advocacy programs and initiatives. Our goal is to do more with less. We want to create a better heritage tourism experience and not just be another tour, and we think the new Fall Tour offerings do just that.
We have limited the number of our traditional large format tours, and have focused on smaller, curated experiences that dig deeper into our cultural and architectural history. Though offering more in-depth experiences have increased the price of some tours, we have enriched our docent and educational training to enhance the narrative and experience of these tours.
If you are interested in receiving the Fall Tour brochure, volunteering, or attending any of the volunteer enrichment series, please email Susan Epstein, Tours Manager, at email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org.