City Council endorses New Urbanism

by John Steinberger | February 13, 2018 7:59 pm

Charleston City Council voted unanimously to adopt the West Ashley Master Plan Tuesday at The Schoolhouse, an abandoned elementary school recently converted into office space. The document was facilitated by planning firm Dover Kohl, which embraces New Urbanism, a philosophy which calls for high-density apartment complexes and massive spending on bicycle paths and mass transit. New Urbanists believe that single-family homes and car travel lead to global warming.

There was a standing room only crowd of more than 200 people at the City Council meeting. In my estimation, most of them opposed the high density development and the increased traffic congestion and flooding the plan will likely cause, but few of them were willing to speak during the public comment period. Ashford Place resident Karl Brinkert remarked on the impact such development has had on residents within the flood-prone Church Creek Drainage Basin, and the audience applauded.

West Ashley resident Sheri Irwin criticized the plan for its impact on public safety and property rights. She is concerned that higher-density zoning laws will lead to people being displaced from their homes through the use of eminent domain. Irwin noted that the Mt. Pleasant Mayor and most of its Town Council were voted out because of voter dissatisfaction with New Urbanism and told Charleston City Council, “You got elected to stop this!” Three of the four incumbent Council members with challengers on the 2017 ballot lost largely due to voter concerns about traffic and flooding.

The only substantive question before the City Council vote on master plan came from the one challenged incumbent who won in 2017, Councilman William Dudley Gregory. He asked Mayor John Tecklenburg, “How much is this plan going to cost?” Tecklenburg laughed, and responded, “Millions and millions of dollars.” City Council has recently approved bicycle path projects costing about $4 Million per mile. Bicycle paths called for in the plan could easily cost more than $200 Million.

The fact that a plan like this could get rubber-stamped through after year-long process shows that voters and tax-payers need to be more vigilant in the future. What do you want West Ashley to look like in the future? Do you think we can build more high-density apartments, many of them in the wetlands, and have less flooding and traffic congestion?

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