We Don’t Need To Take In 50 New Residents A Day
July 4, 2017
By John Steinberger | Contributing Writer
The big Chamber of Commerce slogan is that Charleston attracts 50 new residents a day and that we need to build new housing to accommodate them. That line of thinking gets passed on to almost all of our local elected officials, who automatically approve almost all requests for new development, including 300-unit apartment complexes along already congested roads.
Our elected officials almost always refer to development requests as property rights issues. Most of them never consider how the proposed developments will impact traffic, flooding, and ultimately property values for home and business owners in the surrounding area. Multiple flooding events have occurred along the Bees Ferry Road corridor since August 2015, and construction in the wetlands has a lot to do with that.
We can fix this problem by outlawing future development in our wetlands, nature’s filter for stormwater runoff. Beyond that, we should get our City of Charleston and Charleston County governments to downsize the allowable zoning density. The current high-density zoning threatens our suburban character and has a negative impact on our way of life. West Ashley is at risk of becoming like one of Atlanta’s non-descript, traffic-congested suburbs.
A recent trip to my nephew’s wedding in historic Fredericksburg, Virginia showed me that overdevelopment is not necessary for a suburban community to prosper. Fredericksburg is about 60 miles from Washington, DC. Many of the town’s residents work in our nation’s capital and many more would enjoy the opportunity to live there if high-sensity zoning was permitted there. The elected officials in Fredericksburg are committed to preserving the town’s suburban and historic character.
Fredericksburg’s website describes the town as “an attractive place to live and do business. (Residents) use phrases like quality of life, small-town atmosphere, and sense of place.” Isn’t that what we want for West Ashley? Another great thing about the Fredericksburg historic district is that all of the retail establishments are locally owned. The only vacant retail spaces I saw there were under renovation.
Something I did not see in historic Fredericksburg was mass transit and bike lanes on the suburban roads. There were crosswalks on the roads which were clearly marked so that cars would stop when pedestrians were crossing busy intersections. The Washington, DC commuters may drive about three miles to a park-and-ride train station. Charleston County taxpayers voted to increase our sales tax 0.5% in 2016, and one of the projects suggested (but not mandated in the tax increase referendum) was a $650 Million Bus Rapid Transit system from Summerville to downtown Charleston. We still don’t know where the park-and-ride stations will be or how long it will take to make the trips.
Another thing I picked up on in Fredericksburg’s website was the following statement: “The challenge is to ensure that development reflects the community’s values.” Do your elected officials ask you if you want massive apartment complexes or whether you want to depend on government-run bus services to provide your transportation? It’s up to all of us to tell our elected officials what we want for West Ashley and the greater Charleston area.
West Ashley can learn a lot from the Fredericksburg model. Fredericksburg elected officials would never even consider developing a historic property like Ashley Hall Plantation. I previously wrote about how West Ashley resident Larry Freudenberg organized concerned citizens to preserve that historic property: westof.net/citizens-fight-back-against-overdevelopment/. Let’s preserve what makes West Ashley special so that we don’t eventually have 50 people leaving per day along with declining property values and a lower quality of life.
John Steinberger is the editor-in-chief of LowcountrySource.com. To contact him, email John@LowcountrySource.com.