Charleston County comprehensive plan focuses on more apartments

Charleston County comprehensive plan focuses on more apartments
March 10 17:20 2018 Print This Article

Charleston County government is holding a series of seven workshops during the next three weeks to inform the public about proposed changes to the county’s Comprehensive Plan.  The planning document places heavy emphasis on high-density apartment development and mass transportation.  Among the workshop sites will be the Lonnie Hamilton Public Services Building on March 27 and West Ashley High School on March 28.

The Chamber of Commerce promotes more apartments because developers make more money per acre building them than they do for single family homes or commercial property.  The comprehensive plan calls for a “density bonus” to be granted to developers which set aside “affordable housing” units in the apartment complexes.  The federal definition of affordable housing is that tenants living below 80% of the median household income for the area should not have to spend more than 30% of their income on rent and utilities.  The plan lists the median household income in Charleston County as $53,437.  A density bonus means that developers may exceed the maximum density in the zoning ordinances if they offer a certain percentage of units deemed as affordable.

The plan also advocates for more spending on mass transportation and pedestrian and bicycle paths.  It states, “Dependency on the automobile has led to sprawling development, traffic congestion, and higher taxes to build and maintain roads.”  The plan also states that people who live more than a quarter mile from a bus stop are not likely to ride the bus and indicated that would include more than 70% of the people in Charleston County.  The document also calls for encouraging and supporting bicycle paths.  A recent bicycle path project for Folly Road will cost nearly $4 Million per mile.

The cornerstone of the mass transportation plan is a Bus Rapid Transit system from Summerville to Downtown Charleston, which would cost hundreds of millions of dollars.  The proposed route along Highway 78 and Highway 52 would have 18 stops.  Planners have not figured out where people would park their cars to access the bus stops.  Furthermore, how rapid would the system be with 18 stops along the route?  We all see nearly-empty buses criss-crossing Charleston County.  There is currently a park-and-ride station at Citadel Mall, and aside from a few peak route times used by MUSC employees, it is empty most of the day.  I had a chance to speak to mass transportation consultants at a recent public meeting and asked them if they could reference a metropolitan area the size of Charleston which has a well-utilized bus system, and none of them could.

There also a piece in the document about energy usage which decried our usage of fossil fuels.  I fail to understand why that is part of a regional planning process.  Fossil fuel energy sources are much more cost-effective than solar power.  Solar panels are great to have to provide electricity after a power outage, but most households can’t afford them, even with the state and federal subsides which keep the industry afloat.  The plan also calls for more local food production because of the fuel consumed by transporting food products from other parts of the country.  While local production is a great thing and has contributed to successful farmers markets throughout the county, we don’t have the farming capacity to feed our nearly 400,000 residents.

One of the most disappointing aspects about the Comprehensive Plan is that it does not even address the issue of drainage.  Flooding has been a serious problem in all parts of Charleston County in recent years.  Over-development has been a major cause of the flooding, as has filling in wetlands to allow for more development.  Attendance at the workshops is encouraged.  Someone may even listen to your concerns!