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Addressing the State of West Ashley

Making our shot count

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February 2, 2018
By Bill Davis | News Editorl

Everyone has seen those videos online of guys shooting basketballs off the sides of mountains or from atop buildings into baskets hundreds of feet below in a ravine or a parking lot.

There are two factors that make that ball go in that basket. One, editing – the guys shoot shot after shot until the ball finally goes in. Obviously.

But the bigger skill is making sure to release the ball with the exit right amount of push and direction, so it won’t sail far from the target.

That’s where West Ashley is: the moment right before the ball is released.

Later this month, Plan West Ashley, the new master plan report compiled by the West Ashley Revitalization Commission (WARC)  and approved last week by the city Planning Commission will be delivered to City Council.

A sprawling document, the plan details how West Ashley can best handle its coming growth, deal with its rising waters, speed up traffic on its streets, and the like.

Hashed out over months of open meetings with plenty of opportunity for public input, putting the plan together was like the guy with the ball on high, setting his feet, bending his knees, cocking his arm, and beginning to push upward.

Planning Commission’s voting on the plan was akin to making sure the hand was placed correctly on the ball, and that the elbow was pointed at the rim.

City Council will make sure the wrist is bent like it’s going into a cookie jar upon release, and then West Ashley’s revitalization will finally, politicians and officials promise, be underway.

Three-point shots have been drained on the city’s peninsula for decades, with massive success after massive success arising out of a master planning process there and the private market responding.

Last week, Mayor John Tecklenburg, a West Ashley resident, delivered the annual State of the City Address, and in it he focused on drainage more than just about anything else.

Three separate times Tecklenburg, who made a walking tour of Avondale recently, mentioned drainage efforts in the Church Creek Basin off Bees Ferry Road, and touted plans for more work there:

“We’ve enacted responsible moratoriums … in flood prone areas of West Ashley … and worked to bring thousands of rural acres into the city – not to develop the land, but to protect area residents from flooding, traffic, and overdevelopment.”

Despite that, City Councilman Bill Moody, who represents a big chunk of West Ashley, still isn’t pleased.

“What I’m very disappointed in is that there has been a lot of words, pandering, about the drainage thing – everybody’s got to fix the drainage, but nobody is doing anything about it,” says Moody.

For Moody, it’s an issue of misplaced priorities. Flooding still bedevils parts of the peninsula, but there’s a big push within City Hall to build a bike/pedestrian “low line” instead, he says.

Moody says misplaced priorities have come across the Ashley River.

“And in this new 2018 budget, how much money has been requested to start implementing the plan? Try zero,” says Moody of the budget that is about 70 percent complete by his estimation.

Councilman Peter Shahid, who heads the WARC and also represents West Ashley, shoots back, saying, “you can’t ask for the money until you have the plan” which will be voted on in two weeks.

Using the basketball comparison, Shahid says “it’s aim first, then shoot.”

Both Shahid and Moody sparred lightly at a West Ashley-James Island Business Association monthly meeting last week held at Bessinger’s on Savannah Highway, in front of other councilmembers Keith Waring, Marvin Wagner, Kevin Shealy, and Harry Griffin.

Shahid says that not everyone is going to be happy with everything in the plan. “Some will feel strongly about this or the other, but what this plan does is give us some direction of which way to go.”

Both Shahid and Moody strongly agree they’d like to see more of the unexpected surplus collections from the current city budget be applied to projects here in West Ashley. And that could pit West Ashley projects, like Moody’s plan to incentivize burying powerlines along traffic corridors, against peninsular projects, like shoring up the Lower Battery.

Charleston County is getting into the act, setting aside millions to expand Glenn McConnell Parkway by an additional lane from Bees Ferry up to Magwood Drive in the coming year.

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