Five Points Rezoning in County Hands
Annexation into City option nixed, property to remain in unincorporated County
By Charlie Morrison
When the S.C. Supreme Court mandated the Town of James Island be dissolved for the third time last year, Charleston County inherited a number of services and functions that had been previously performed by the Town. The County took on innumerable additional responsibilities when the Town was dissolved, none perhaps so vital to the quality of life on the island, however, as that of property management and zoning.
In the majority of cases in which formerly Town-zoned properties became County Planning’s responsibility, the County has elected to simply honor the zonings established by the Town. In other cases, however, property owners are seizing the opportunity to re-zone their properties using County zoning practices. One such case involves the yet-undeveloped property on the southeast corner of the “Five Points” intersection on Maybank Highway. That property has, for the better part of a decade, shared the Town’s cloudy fate, but with a re-zoning request on the books for next month’s County Planning Commission meeting, the future of the tract will hopefully clarify.
Property management firm JLW Maybank I LLC, a subsidiary of firm J.L. Woode, Ltd., acquired the five parcels that make up their re-zoning request in three separate purchases, concluded in early 2006. The firm purchased the five parcels (1981, 1985, and 1989 Maybank Hwy., 211 S. Gevert Road, and 212 Woodland Shores Road) from a trio of prior owners for a sum totaling just under $1.4 million. The firm successfully negotiated a re-zoning of the property with the Town of James Island from a residential classification to that of a planned use development (PUD), but ground was never broken on the project.
Though the Town’s zoning did provide for the commercial development of the property, it prevented a true residential/commercial mixed-use design typical of a normal PUD. With a fourth incorporation of the Town of James Island on the horizon, project managers decided to act now to re-zone the property, to work with the County’s Planning Commission, instead of relying on a new Town’s murky future.
The firm’s recent re-zoning request, set to be heard by the County Planning Commission on March 12, would establish the zoning as Community Commercial (CC). That zoning classification, says County Planning Department Director Dan Pennick, would allow for more options.
“To me, this is simply a case where the property had sold. The new property owner feels that they’re too constrained under that PUD (zoning), and what’s going on around them is commercial,” says Pennick. “They want to have a commercial zoning district, and then they can put any covenants and restrictions in their property to control it.”
J.L Woode attorney Jonathan L. Yates further explained the developer’s intentions. “Since the adoption of the Comprehensive Plan, the area around the five properties has become much more commercial and no longer suitable for residential uses,” said Yates in a letter to the County. “Presently this part of Maybank Highway has a traffic count in excess of 26,000 trips per day. Consequently, residential is no longer a suitable use for these properties, and a commercial recommendation is wholly appropriate in light of the surrounding uses.
J.L. Woode Ltd.’s website (www.jlwoode.com), further sheds light on the group’s plans for the project. It reads: “The 1.495 acre lot is projected to hold 14,000 square feet of retail or office space and parking.”
And while the scope of the project and the mechanics of re-zoning the land have become clear, the events that led up to the firm’s final decision to remain a part of unincorporated Charleston County and utilize their respective zoning were anything but. As of early February, the firm had applied for annexation into the City of Charleston. The proposed ordinance was on the agenda for the Charleston City Council’s January 24 meeting, but the item was deferred. On February 10, four days prior to the next meeting of City Council, Yates informed the City they were withdrawing their request for annexation. That option nixed, the property will remain in unincorporated Charleston County and as a result, be subject to County zoning ordinances. The re-zoning request will be heard at the next meeting of the County’s Planning Commission at 2 p.m. on Monday, March 12.