I have documented several times that West Ashley’s suburban character is under assault. Our city and county governments have been permitting massive apartment complexes, which will increase traffic congestion. Many of the apartments will be built in the wetlands, which will increase property damage due to flooding.
There are currently 12 apartment complexes, including 2254 units , either under construction or under review in West Ashley. Most of them are along the Bees Ferry Rd. corridor, which has experienced massive flooding in recent years.
Two of the projects which are under review (nearly 500 units) are along the West Ashley Circle, which I have described as The Road To Nowhere. You can read my commentary at http://lowcountrysource.com/lowcountry-watchdog/west-ashley-circle-the-road-to-nowhere/. The project cost $7 Million and was promoted as a way to relieve traffic congestion and connect neighborhoods along the Bees Ferry Rd./Glenn McConnell Blvd. intersection. Neither of those attributes proved to be true.
I recently visited West Ashley Circle on the opposite side of Bees Ferry Rd. from the West Ashley Walmart. There was standing water on much of the land both inside and outside of the circle, even though there has been very little rainfall in recent weeks. The land is full of wetlands vegetation, including saw palmettos. It is also very low elevation, meaning that rainwater runoff will move from the road surface to the ground below.
Wetlands are nature’s filters. The soil and plants are very absorbent. If we clear-cut the trees there and pave the soil, runoff rainwater will likely spill into surrounding neighborhoods, including Hickory Farms, Grand Oaks, Hickory Hill and Shadowmoss. Homeowners in those neighborhoods have already sustained significant flooding damage in recent years.
A one-bedroom apartment at The Ashley is leasing for $1300 a month. Interestingly, the complex is scheduled for a hearing before the City of Charleston Design Review Board Tues., Jan. 3 at 5 pm on the backside of the Gaillard Center to request landscaping with artificial turf rather than sod. It so happens that the artificial turf has already been installed. That could cause a drainage problem for the lower-elevation businesses and Ashley River Creative Arts Elementary School on Wallace School Rd.
The urban planners in Charleston County and the City of Charleston are clearly advocating for the New Urbanism agenda. New Urbanism calls for high-density development (three- and four-story apartment complexes) and more emphasis on mass transit and pedestrian transportation. Such planning increases traffic congestion and the driver frustration.
A proposed contract for the New Urbanism advocate consulting firm Dover, Kohl and Partners to facilitate the West Ashley Master Plan was recently rejected by Charleston City Council on a 9-4 vote. The contract came in at around $150,000 more than what City Council had previously agreed upon. Another issue was that the 19-member West Ashley Revitalization Commission did not have a role in selecting Dover Kohl among the 11 firms which submitted bids. The Revitalization Commission will make a recommendation on the proposal submitted by the eventual consulting firm.
The next City Council meeting is scheduled for Tues., January 10. The Revitalization Commission meets Thurs., Jan. 19. It is unclear whether the West Ashley Master Plan consultant contract will be on the agenda at either meeting.
Budgetary consideration aside, I would like to see a consulting firm hired which supports maintaining West Ashley’s suburban character. Most people I speak with, Republican and Democrat, don’t want to see more high-density development. The people who preach about expanding mass transit don’t use it themselves. I love our single-family home neighborhoods and don’t like the idea of depending on a government-run transit system to reach my destination in a timely manner.