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Ground Breaking

Change Pushes and Pulls West Ashley

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April 13, 2017
By Bill Davis | News Editor

Development has become a double-edged shovel in West Ashley.

On one hand, everyone is excited about the new Whole Foods Market development along Savannah Highway, which broke ground recently. The move will mark an upgrade in perception and property values in its surrounding area.

But others worry that traffic will explode and harm local businesses, like Doscher’s IGA next door.

It’s great that local realtor and former reality TV star Richard Davis has led a group to buy Citadel Mall, which has held on to stores in recent years like a colander retains water. But others wring their hands, worrying that a guy best known for residential revitalization may not be the best guy to join with the city to revitalize that swath of West Ashley.

New development out Glenn McConnell Parkway and Hwy. 17 South will bring vibrancy, and new commercial opportunities. But it could directly affect flooding along Bees Ferry Road, so City Council has initially passed a nine-month moratorium on new construction in the Church Creek Basin abutting that thoroughfare.

But that moratorium, dubbed “a pause” by Dean Riegel, the city councilman for that part of town, apparently doesn’t include a nearby project that would bring Harris Teeter-anchored strip mall to the West Ashley Circle adjacent to the entrance to the Grand Oaks neighborhood.

“It’s happening in West Ashley; it’s happening,” says a pumped-up city planning czar Jacob Lindsey. “And we’re doing it.”

But first Lindsey and the rest of his crew at the municipal office of Planning, Preservation, and Sustainability want to talk it over with the public. As such, the city will host a series of community input sessions to see what the public thinks needs to be included in the process.

The first meeting will be held at 6 p.m, Monday, April 24 at John Wesley United Methodist; the next day, at 6 p.m., Tuesday at West Ashley Middle School, and then two meetings the following Saturday, May 6,  from 9 a.m. until noon at the Bees Landing Recreational Center and from 2-5 p.m. at West Ashley High School.

Following those sessions, the city will hold a weeklong planning charrette with Dover Kohl, the high-zoot urban planners brought in to guide the creation of a comprehensive revitalization plan for West Ashley.

The resulting plan, crafted with input by the 19-member City Councilman Peter Shahid-led West Ashley Revitalization Commission, will be presented to Council later this year, presumably.

Citadel Mall’s Davis did say recently that he was going to limit his public comments until he is ready to unveil the full “vision” for the mall.

Last  week, City Hall took the next two steps toward West Ashley’s revitalization. First, the plan for the John RIvers-led Harris Teeter project was presented to the municipal Design and Review Board.

Second, the moratorium was up for second and third reading at City Council, which after an initial 12-1 vote in favor of it, was expected to sail through the process. It did, as did a hotel moratorium on the peninsula.

“‘Moratorium’ is a four-letter word in my book,” says City Councilman Marvin Wagner, whose district lies next to Riegel’s. “I don’t know what the solution is, maybe limiting permits per year going forward, but I’m going to keep chasing it.”

Riegel says the reason that the Harris Teeter development will be allowed to go forward is that there “is already paper on it with the city.” What he means is that if the city and a developer have already been passing plans back and forth, and are already involved in the process, the development can go forward.

But, Riegel says, if a development doesn’t have everything in order, then it grounds to a halt until  next year. He was speaking directly about the contentious Harmony planned urban development slated for his flooding-prone district.

Riegel says that because that plan has not received final U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approval for its wetland mitigation plan, it can and will be put on official hold until 2018.

“If we were to receive another rain event like the ones that hit us last year,”flooded residents of Shadowmoss and other surrounding neighborhoods “would grab up pitchforks and march on CIty Hall … maybe I’d lead them!”

Two weeks ago, the city hired an international hydrology consulting firm that’s done work in the Netherlands, to oversee a new round of solutions for the extra water in the Church Creek Basin.

What is becoming imminently clear is that either a rising tide of development will either float everyone’s “boat” in West Ashley, or we will all sink together underneath a tide of ineffectual planning.

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