by John Steinberger | September 1, 2019 3:03 pm
Charleston’s November 5 municipal elections for Mayor and six City Council seats will be a referendum on whether voters who live outside the Charleston peninsula. (74% of the population) want to urbanize West Ashley and the other suburbs. Most people who choose to live in the suburbs love the lifestyle of quiet neighborhoods with single-family homes and attached garages and convenient shopping centers with abundant free parking. We don’t want to be smothered by high-density apartment complexes.
Mayor John Tecklenburg and several members of Charleston City Council have used the phrase “we need to get people out of their cars.” That is not in keeping with the suburban lifestyle. Only a handful of suburbanites consider bicycles a form of transportation. What would you look like after bicycling in the summer heat or in the rain? Buses aren’t a convenient option for most of us. I would have to walk more than a half mile to the nearest CARTA bus stop. Who has any confidence that CARTA can deliver convenient bus service that gets people to their destinations in a timely manner.
The philosophy behind the 2018 West Ashley Master Plan is known as New Urbanism. At the root of this philosophy is that people who live in single-family homes and drive vehicles have too large of a “carbon footprint.” Carbon dioxide makes up only 0.04% of our atmosphere, and human activity accounts for only about 3% of that tiny concentration. Getting us out of our cars will not cool the earth. The West Ashley Master Plan did not price out its agenda items, but the bicycle paths called for would likely cost tens of millions of dollars and would involve seizing private property through eminent domain.
West Ashley and the other suburban areas of Charleston do need more office space and employment opportunities. A good start is the pending opening of MUSC West Campus ambulatory care facility at Citadel Mall. It will enable more than 800 employees and thousands of patients to avoid trips downtown and paying for parking. That positive development also presents a challenge. I recently had to wait through five light changes to turn left onto Orleans Road on a trip to the mall. Orleans Road needs to be widened and traffic signal timing needs to be optimized to accommodate the extra traffic that MUSC and other new development at Citadel Mall will bring.
When you go to the polls in November, know which candidates want to urbanize West Ashley. All six candidates for Mayor will participate in a forum Thursday at 7 pm at the Charleston Marriott on Lockwood Boulevard, where they will be asked questions related to the West. Ashley Master Plan.
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