Report Out on August City Council Meeting
preservation-admin , August 20, 2021
Earlier this week, City Council met on Daniel Island to address a number of important issues on a packed agenda. As you may have read or seen, it was a long (five and a half hours) and raucous meeting, marred by levels of invective and public vitriol that were completely out of character for Charleston and, frankly, hard to watch.
The PSC maintains a consistent presence at public meetings across the City and County to monitor issues impacting the future of the Charleston community, and this week’s City Council meeting illustrates why it is so important that the public process be handled responsibly to ensure accessibility, fairness, and safety.
Before addressing the following items, we would like to thank the members of City Council and City staff for their service to the city. We may not always agree with the actions taken, but their perseverance as public servants amid such difficult circumstances deserves our gratitude.
Added Protections for Charleston’s African American Cemeteries
The PSC is pleased to report that Council unanimously gave first reading to a new cemetery preservation ordinance, which will enable the City to stop construction if a developer receives notice that burial sites are present. Councilwoman Marie Delcioppo spoke movingly about the need for such protections and, in her remarks, echoed the PSC’s position that a comprehensive inventory of burial sites citywide must be a top priority. This position was also supported by City Planning Director Robert Summerfield in the Post and Courier earlier this week. The PSC has been a leading advocate on this issue and looks forward to continuing to collaborate with City leadership to ensure the preservation of cemeteries citywide.
Laurel Island Development Agreement
In a surprising move, the 10-year Laurel Island Development Agreement was approved immediately with no discussion by Council. The agreement notably locks in the owners’ rights to develop the 196-acre property for a decade. Also, given the considerable public financing of this project, the entire community should be invested in the realization of its vision. The Preservation Society has been a key advocacy voice in shaping the Laurel Island plan for the better and will be keeping a close eye on the evolution of this massive development to ensure that the commitments to affordable housing, green space, infrastructure improvements, and strong design principles are fully upheld.
Council discussed the report from the Special Commission on Equity, Inclusion, and Racial Conciliation at length. The ask of Council was to formally “receive,” or rather acknowledge the report, not adopt the set of 125 recommendations, which was a point of confusion among Councilmembers and the community. The vote to “receive” the report ultimately failed, while the motion to extend the Commission’s life as a standing committee passed.
As the City begins to evaluate the feasibility of the recommendations, it will be imperative to have meaningful public engagement and to establish a formal, thorough, and transparent process for vetting the recommendations individually.
The City’s zoning, development, and housing policies are a key focus of the report and we look forward to rolling up our sleeves to help the City produce positive outcomes. As always, we will continue to advocate for a process that entails significant public outreach to the citizens of Charleston so that all may understand the implications of the report.
Carriage Tour Safety
The last item on Tuesday’s lengthy agenda was the carriage tour safety ordinance. We supported our community partners’ call for deferral of this item so that the public could better understand why certain safety measures — including child safety rules and emergency plans to protect visitors and residents — were omitted from the ordinance. Councilman Ross Appel also urged deferral. Council voted nonetheless, and the ordinance passed first reading. We hope that second and third readings of this ordinance at future Council meetings will afford interested members of the public the opportunity to share their opinions on carriage safety.