CUTLINE: Chuck Travis, principal with Charlotte-based Housing Studio and Woodfield Investments partner Mike Schwarz field questions from concerned citizens at a public meeting last week
A Gathering of Discontent
The Gathering Place continues to draw criticism despite appeasing City’s Design and Review Board
By Charlie Morrison
Town of James Island Mayor Bill Woolsey called it “a matter of concern.” County Councilman Joe Qualey termed it “a disaster.” Even City Councilman Dudley Gregorie titled the proposed project to build the Gathering Place development just east of Fleming Road on Maybank Highway “a tough issue,” and that was just last week.
The development team behind the project to construct a 284-unit, multi-use residential and commercial facility had quite the busy week, but in the end it was a successful one for them. On Tuesday property developer Woodfield Investments voluntarily hosted an informal public information session to discuss the project with local residents. On Thursday, the group faced the fire of another critical audience in presenting an updated site plan to the City’s Design and Review Board (DRB).
In the end, the group persevered through both events, enhanced public awareness, and, save some small issues, appeased the DRB. For the development team, last week was a success, a fact that darkens the prospects for the opposition to the project.
On Tuesday, Dec. 11, the public information meeting was, as to be expected, feisty. A crowd approaching 75 lambasted the developers on the scale of the project and the traffic problems it would, in their views, exacerbate if built. Woodfield Investments partner Mike Schwarz, on hand for the meeting, did what he could to assuage the public’s concerns, but convincing the attendees the project was anything but out of place on James Island proved impossible.
Considering that, at slightly more than 22 acres, the project is far smaller than the minimum lot size of 80 acres mandated by resolution creating the Gathering Place’s classification, it’s no wonder island residents have raised an eyebrow, not to mention a voice over the proposal.
The project’s reliance on public transportation to mitigate the increased density also drew the fire of meeting attendees, insistent that the group’s claims that public transportation would alleviate the traffic it created were as empty as the CARTA buses it promised to utilize.
Thursday’s meeting was just as tenuous, with Woodside representatives meeting with a body, the DRB, that had only week previously sent them back to the drawing board, calling the then-current plans for the project “out of character” for Maybank Highway. The development group persevered, however, emerging from the meeting with only a few minor tweaks to make prior to their next appointment with the City’s Technical Review Committee.
© 2012 Wiser Time Publishing, Inc.