What Is Your Plan For West Ashley?
October 27, 2017
By John Steinberger | Contributing Writer
The West Ashley Revitalization Commission (WARC) unanimously voted to defer a vote of the second draft of the West Ashley Master Plan at its October meeting at West Ashley High School Tuesday. The WARC agreed to hold a workshop at its November 8 meeting at The Schoolhouse, 720 Magnolia Rd. The move sets back the timetable for the final passage of the plan by Charleston City Council. Only 14 of the 19 WARC members attended the meeting.
Victor Dover, the principal for the consulting firm Dover Kohl of Coral Gables, Florida, which is managing the planning process, said that significant feedback has been received from the public and that several significant revisions were made from from the original September draft. On the transportation front, people insisted that the completion of I-526 is an essential piece of relieving traffic congestion. The project is currently tied up in the state courts following a lawsuit by Charleston County against the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank and the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT).
There were also a lot of comments in response to a drawing in the original draft showing the Citadel Mall without a parking lot. What is currently the parking lot was shown as being filled with hotels, conference centers, office buildings and apartments. Dover explained the revised drawing reduced the scale of the proposed buildings from 10 stories to five stories. He also highlighted a small number of parking spaces located behind the added structures. The planning firm envisions a West Ashley in which people ride bicycles and take the bus to get around rather than driving. It is noteworthy that MUSC recently signed a lease agreement to occupy the former JC Penney space at the mall, with one of the key reasons being the convenience and parking available to their patients.
The most comments received on the original draft were related to drainage problems in West Ashley. Dover said the revised draft includes more park space and a plan to restore wetlands in some areas. Charleston City Councilman Marvin Wagner said the master plan should incorporate recommendations made in the ongoing Church Creek Drainage Basin Study. https://www.churchcreekbasinstudy.com
Charleston County Councilman Brantley Moody summed up the feeling of most of the WARC members in attendance by stating, “We need to get this right – we don’t need to get this fast.” He indicated that the plan is driven more by the preferences of consultant Dover Kohl than it is by the preferences of the 72,000 residents of West Ashley.
Most of the public comments about the draft master plan were critical. A Sycamore Avenue resident noted that the plan called for park spaces in areas where homes now exist and infringe on property rights. She cited the City of Charleston’s membership in the International Council of Local Environmental Initiatives (I.C.L.E.I.), which calls for high-density residential development and an increased emphasis on bicycle transportation and mass transit. http://icleiusa.org. Another resident was concerned about developers driving up housing prices and pushing the poor and elderly out of their homes.
Residents from Wappoo Heights and The Crescent subdivisions discussed the failure of the plan to address traffic and safety concerns on Folly Rd. from South Windermere Shopping Center to Wappoo Cut Bridge. Carmen Nash from the Dupont/Wappoo Neighborhood Association stressed that more interface is needed with the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) before approving the master plan. Almost all major thoroughfares in West Ashley require SCDOT approval for any changes requested.
The change in the time-table for the West Ashley Master plan offers the opportunity for more community input. Citizens can read the second draft of the plan and post comments at www.planwestashley.com/engage. Paper copies of the studies are available at the West Ashley libraries.
John Steinberger is the editor-in-chief of LowcountrySource.com. To contact him, email John@LowcountrySource.com.