Charleston City Council Halts Development on James Island for Six Months

Charleston County halts development on James Island for six months

The Charleston City Council approved a six month moratorium on developments in James Island commercially-zoned areas that are within Charleston city limits. The mayor of James Island said it will take the cooperation of all entities with jurisdiction over James Island for there to be real progress to slow growth and development.  The six month moratorium was unanimously approved by the Charleston City Council on May 9, and applies to buildings larger than 1,500 square feet and any development with more than four residential buildings per acre. The study will examine uses, density of development, height and dimensional requirements, as it relates to the island’s identity as a whole.

Mayor John Tecklenburg pledged to cooperate with the other entities to develop a long term vision for James Island. The entities include, the city of Charleston, Charleston County, the Town of James Island and the James Island Public Service District. Mayor Woolsey of James Island said that “the real change needs to come as we move forward beyond having this temporary pause and think about how we can work tougher to plan and zone the island so our infrastructure can keep up with the development.”

The moratorium has hit a hurdle however, with the county officials split on signing off on the six month moratorium. The county can do little to stop it however since it only has jurisdiction over four parcels totaling less than 10 acres.

Residents of James Island have complained for years about the constant feuds and turf wars among the   governments with jurisdiction over this emerging suburb. There has been little collaboration among authorities to guide James Island’s growth and to keep up with new infrastructure to meet the new development. Many James Islanders came out to the Charleston City Council meeting in support of the six month moratorium.  Residents expressed concern over traffic congestion, overcrowded schools, and plans for new developments, such as several apartment complexes that are under consideration for development.

For years Mayor Riley attempted to have James Island and West Ashley annexed into the city of Charleston.  Residents resisted and attempted to form their own town on three occasions, to keep James Island from being urbanized by the city council. Charleston challenged the legality of the new town, and it was dissolved by the S. C. Supreme Court in 2011.  After a fourth attempt in 2012, a small area of James Island around Camp, Fort Johnson and Harbor View Roads was formed into a town. The island is now split between the town, the city, the Public Service District and Charleston County, which has left a patchwork of zoning and planning policies.

Source: Post & Courier, “James Islanders see hope with development ban,” by Abigail Darlington, May 20, 2017.

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