When the City of Charleston considers allowing the development of a new subdivision, shopping center or apartment complex, developers must go through the Technical Review Committee to answer questions about structural soundness, compliance with building codes, and the impact on drainage and traffic. This screening is not open to the public and members of City Council are not given transcripts of the questions asked by city staff or the answers given by the developers.
The next phase in the development process, the Design Review Board, is very transparent. It is open to the public and allows for a public comment period. However, the board can only act on matters concerning architecture, landscaping, lighting and signage. It can’t address matters involving the important issues of drainage and traffic impact.
I believe that City Council members are asked to vote on development projects without knowing all the details. I spoke with several Councilmen about The Ashley apartment complex, which sits along Ashley River Road between Savage Road and Wallace School Road. They were not aware that the 174-unit complex would extend just feet from the road or that it would only have one entrance and exit along an already congested road. It also has a sloped entrance which could impact drainage on Wallace School Road, which includes Ashley River Creative Arts Elementary School.
There are currently about a dozen apartment complexes in West Ashley going through the review process, including 350 new units near the entrance to Bolton’s Landing along congested Bees Ferry Road and 500 units at West Ashley Circle. I have already expressed concerns about the drainage impact of development at West Ashley Circle – http://lowcountrysource.com/lowcountry-watchdog/west-ashley-circle-the-road-to-nowhere/
We need more transparency in the development process so the City Council members and citizens have a better idea of how projects will impact the community.