I enjoy telling my council colleagues that my constituents are engaged, interested and always helpful.
And, that 82 per cent of inquiries, comments and counsel I receive relate to the effects of what seems to be sudden and rapid growth – especially roadway traffic.
We generally realize that our broad community of very nice and well “planned” neighborhoods are within probably the fastest growing precinct within our state. And we tend to wonder – as we have for decades – why highway and school capacities can’t keep a better pace with residential and commercial development.
“It just doesn’t,” a veteran Dorchester County official said last week. “It doesn’t work that way in South Carolina.”
It’s an inconvenient truth that he’s right – and correcting this non-planning mindset that simply mandates traffic and school congestion in growth
zones will take many years of grass roots constituent demanding messaging. I raise this issue in every discussion forum I enter; so does Mayor Summey. We encourage you to do that as well with county and state elected leaders.
In the meantime, let’s connect these latest dots in the “perfect storm” now drifting steadily into our qualities-of-life equations:
– There have been no new residential developments approved in District 4 since about 2010. With Mayor Summey’s help, we have managed to reject several, including major apartment projects. We have also managed to create “buffer zoning” to insulate The Farm at Wescott, Coosaw Creek, Indigo Palms and Coosaw Preserve from the revised “M-1” industrial/commercial zoning on Palmetto Commerce Parkway.
-The Coosaw Preserve development is the 536- home project by Lennar. This is a phase in a planned development approved in 2008. Sales are brisk. We were able to work with Lennar to thin the density, broaden buffers, provide fence easements and to create “environmental” features. This neighborhood will have 29 per cent of its acreage platted for environmental features – nature trails, protected wetlands ponds, etc.
-The “Sunrise – Express Homes” project by D.R. Horton is underway at the Patriot Parkway hairpin. It was approved in 2008. We did manage to thin its density to 79 townhome units, and the developer agreed to upgrade the external materials. And these homes will be marketed and platted as “fee simple” ownership properties, not condominiums.
-Properties along the north side of Wescott Boulevard, in District 9, are zoned for apartments and reportedly such plans are progressing. Also, property owners are formulating plans for an apartment complex behind Wellborn Village off Ladson Road.
-Traffic – especially at “rush hour” – congests on Patriot, Wescott and Palmetto Commerce Parkway. City police provide traffic control for the opening and closing of the Joe Pye Elementary School. State police do the same for the afternoon shift change at the Boeing Interior Responsibilities plant. Charleston County is now completing a turning lane capacity feature at Ladson and Palmetto Commerce Parkway.
-Consider that in January 2012, an estimated 1,720 persons were employed at companies operating in the Palmetto Commerce Parkway corridor. Today that “estimate” is 3,900. It will surely surpass 5,000 by the Spring of 2016.
- And the big news you’ll hear later this week is that a well-known international firm will bring an additional 1,200 jobs to property near the corner of Patriot Boulevard and Palmetto Commerce Parkway.
– An estimate of 10,000 persons employed along the 5.75 mile Palmetto Commerce Parkway by 2018 seems credible.
The very good news is this is quality economic development, bringing well-paying jobs — and higher residential real estate values. And this cycle of quality economic growth nurtures higher household incomes – and better shopping and entertainment functions.
But it clearly compounds traffic issues and school capacity challenges. Mayor Summey and I met with two Dorchester County councilmen last week and urged them to take leadership roles in expediting projects such as widening Patriot between Wescott Boulevard and Palmetto Commerce Parkway, and completing the four lanes of Wescott Boulevard. The state highway funding crisis has been hijacked by a “no new tax” political vertigo – which dangerously ignores the time-tested proposition that users should pay for the highway system.
Charleston County does have plans for expanding capacities and extending Palmetto Commerce Parkway but planning and funding challenges form a timetable of many years.
There simply are no instant nor readily available solutions for these trends – and that’s a source of frustration. I plan to have focus group discussion sessions on growth and planning in the coming months. These sessions will include state and county elected leaders. If you’re interested in attending, just let me know.
UPDATES ON KEY ROAD PROJECTS – Check out these links for updates on Charleston County roadway projects in the Palmetto Commerce Parkway corridor.
ROAD RESURFACING PROJECTS — Bids have been opened and contracts approved. Sanders Brothers Construction will soon begin resurfacing projects at the intersection of Ashley Phosphate and Patriot – finally eliminating what has to be one of the worse pot hole zones in our state. Asphalt prices are low and because of this the city is able to do more work with the available funds. Club Course Drive, from Dorchester to Patriot also will be resurfaced. These projects result from months of negotiations with Dorchester County and are financed jointly by the city and the county’s use of state gasoline tax rebates. This is the beginning of a four-year $1 million program of prioritized resurfacing projects.
INDIGO PALMS BARRICADE — This very unattractive structure at the end of Windsor Hill Boulevard and at the entrance to this very attractive neighborhood has finally be removed. The developer was very cooperative after the Indigo Palms HOA board requested the city remove the barricade. Strict enforcement of anti-dumping laws will now follow.
DIGITIZED SIGN FOR FORT DORCHESTER ELEMENTARY – The school opened in 2002 and has never had a marquee sign like other newer schools. The Hendon Company, developers of the Corner at Wescott, has joined with the city to upgrade the school’s monument entrance sign to marquee status. This is a convenience for parents and a public safety messaging feature.
CELEBRATING THE NAVY’S HISTORY IN OUR CITY – Saturday will be a day of festive activities at Riverfront Park to celebrate the U.S. Navy’s presence and influence on the history of our city. The appended flier provides details of what should be a great family event. Hope to see you there !
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