Letter to the editor: Coastal Conservation League opposes Harmony Project

Letter to the editor: Coastal Conservation League opposes Harmony Project
July 08 16:30 2020 Print This Article

This letter to the editor is a press release from Coastal Conservation League. The non-profit recently joined City of Charleston as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by the developer of the Harmony Project, a planned 166-acre project in West Ashley’s flood-prone Church Creek drainage basin that includes sensitive wetlands areas. Lowcountry Source strongly supports the preservation of wetlands to reduce the risk of flooding in existing developments and promote a healthy salt marsh ecosystem.

Conservationists Move to Join Suit to Support City in Addressing Flooding

JULY 7, 2020, CHARLESTON, SC – The Coastal Conservation League moved to intervene as a Defendant in Harmony West Ashley, LLC, and Stefan Hoyer v. City of Charleston, a pending federal case involving a developer’s challenge to the City’s new stormwater requirements, which apply to its residential development project.

For years, the Conservation League, an environmental nonprofit, has expressed grave concerns that the Harmony project—a proposed subdivision spanning 166 acres across the low-lying Church Creek basin—would cause detrimental wetland loss and worsen the area’s notorious flooding issues.

According to the motion and supporting documents filed Tuesday on behalf of the Conservation League by the South Carolina Environmental Law Project (SCELP), the Harmony project would impact freshwater and tidal wetlands, causing harm to the surrounding environment and endangering the health and safety of residents, including members of the Conservation League who have endured severe, repetitive flood damage over the past several years.

The Conservation League moved to intervene in the Harmony case because the outcome of the litigation stands to harm its members, along with many of the City’s residents who will benefit from more protective stormwater requirements. 

Wetlands are an important flood buffering and stormwater absorption system. But with nearly 80 percent of the Church Creek basin developed, wetlands and open spaces that once served as water storage are now permanently covered with pavement and homes, causing severe stormwater runoff when it rains and exacerbating flooding in this area.

In 2018, following a string of storms and flooding events that devastated the Church Creek basin, the City of Charleston enacted stronger stormwater requirements for that part of the city to protect residents from flooding.

“After years of repeated flooding in the Church Creek basin, the City of Charleston did the right thing and created rigorous stormwater regulations to ensure that new developments would not end up making flooding worse in nearby neighborhoods,” said Conservation League Executive Director Laura Cantral. “Now that the Harmony developers are challenging these commonsense regulations in court, we’re giving the city all the support we can and fighting to defend the ordinances local governments institute to protect current residents’ health, safety and quality of life.”

“We support the City’s commendable efforts to curb development in areas prone to flooding. Avoiding home-building in these sensitive areas not only benefits the environment by preserving areas that may help contain and filter floodwaters but also precludes short-sighted planning that may lead to disastrous consequences for unsuspecting homeowners and to expensive buyouts funded by taxpayers,” said SCELP Staff Attorney Ben Cunningham

# # #