Riley-led pivot on City’s longstanding feud with Town bears fruit less than a year into transition
By Charlie Morrison
The status quo has changed when it comes the City of Charleston’s stance towards the fledgling Town of James Island. One needn’t look further than last Thursday evening of the newly formed James Island Intergovernmental Council for evidence of that change.
Signaling an end to at least one aspect of the most public of ‘private’ legal battles, one fought with words over land, revenues, and the right to self-determination, Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. made his first-ever public appearance at James Island Town Hall last Thursday evening.
In accordance with this historic event, JIM stole a few minutes out of the Mayor’s busy schedule before Thursday’s meeting for a fast and furious ‘Q and A’ session in which the longtime Charleston Mayor touched on a number of issues weighing heavily with James Islanders as another summer approaches. Here are some of the Mayor’s comments on topics we raised in the interview:
On the accusations from detractors that the City administration is unresponsive to James Island residents?
“There are almost 20,000 people on James Island that live in the City, and they don’t see it that way.
On the significance of forming the James Island Intergovernmental Council:
“I’m delighted to be doing this there and I’m looking forward to going over to the wonderful Town, and going from there. I called Mayor Woolsey on the night he was elected to congratulate him, and we’ve talked several times since. I look forward to working with him.
What is new is that there’s another governmental entity within our region. It’s adjacent to the City. The Town has now, the Supreme Court determined that it’s legal, elected officials … so I’m working with them just like I work with (Mt. Pleasant) Mayor (Billy) Swails, and (North Charleston) Mayor (Keith) Summey and (Folly Beach) Mayor (Tim) Goodwin.”
On the perception that the City’s plan regarding James Island is to increase density at all costs:
“The perception is wrong, so if the perception is wrong so the change of whatever or the need for that is wrong too.
We went to the Supreme Court to prevent the dense development on Harbor View Road, we down-zoned by hundreds and hundreds of vacant properties that were annexed into the City early on and were zoned by the County to multi-family.”
… as evidenced by their opting to use utilize several pieces of City-owned property not for development, but for public parks:
“Demetre Park was bought by the city … the YMCA went bankrupt and wanted to sell to a developer, thereby making it residential and the City stepped in, bought it and created the James Island Rec. Center.”
On the prospect of putting a halt to the City Planning Commision-approved Maybank Hwy. “Gathering Place” development through a waivered exception changing the zoning:
“It’s zoned pursuant to a public process, the Ordinance, the Planning Commission, City Council and all that … so whatever the zoning category is, it’s zoned for that. It can’t be changed.”
On the prospect of additional Gathering Place-zoned properties on James Island:
“People have raised the specter of that happening on that happening on a property on Harbor View Road that is vacant and the City has repeatedly said ‘no.’ That property’s undeveloped now, but that should be developed consistent with the other neighbors.
The “Gathering Place” at Folly and Maybank, the community participated in a public charrette process on that zoning for one … and that’s not a replicable template for the rest of James Island.”
© 2013 Wiser Time Publishing, Inc.