West Ashley Master Plan advances to City Council

West Ashley Master Plan advances to City Council
January 17 20:34 2018 Print This Article

The City of Charleston Planning Commission voted to endorse the West Ashley Master Plan Wednesday. The nine-member commission is appointed by Mayor John Tecklenburg and is tasked with reviewing zoning ordinances, rezoning requests, subdivision requests, concept plans (like the West Ashley Master Plan), and street name proposals.  Of the eight members present, six voted to endorse the plan and two abstained from voting.

Commissioner Sunday Lempesis asked if the city was looking at changing its zoning ordinances in conjunction with the plan.  Mandi Herring from the city planning staff responded that some of the projects recommended in the master plan would require zoning revisions, which would have to be approved by the planning commission.  Concerned citizen Sheri Irwin expressed opposition to the plan’s emphasis on high-density apartment complexes.  She said, “We don’t want high-density apartment complexes in West Ashley.”  She also expressed concern that eminent domain could be used by the city to seize property for the desired high-density developments.  Herring opened the meeting with a presentation indicating that the master plan is a blueprint and not a zoning document.

West Ashley Revitalization Commission Chairman Peter Shahid, who represents West Ashley’s Old Towne district on City Council, said the master plan is needed to improve the image of West Ashley.  He spoke about about going door-to-door during his 2015 campaign and hearing from most homeowners that West Ashley has been neglected and ignored for decades.  Shahid says a key to revitalization plans is to make “West Ashley a place to live, work and play.”  He emphasized that the plan calls for the preservation of existing West Ashley neighborhoods.

Planning firm Dover Kohl spearheaded the planning process beginning in March 2017.  The firm is noted for its advocacy for New Urbanism, which calls for high-density apartment complexes and lots of infrastructure spending on bicycle and pedestrian paths and mass transportation.  The original draft of the plan showed a drawing of Citadel Mall with no parking spaces.  Citadel Mall’s ownership group Trademark Properties recently signed a lease agreement with MUSC, which will locate an outpatient clinic at the former JC Penney space.  The abundance of free parking was a major factor in the deal.  There is also a plan to build a traveling sports Event Center between Belk and Dillard’s, which would bring thousands of visitors traveling by car and van to the mall each weekend.  Dover Kohl recently released a video highlighting the planning process, which included 66 public meetings.

Charleston City Council will likely take up the West Ashley Master Plan at its Tuesday, February 13 meeting at City Hall, which will include a public comment period.