Following a wave of opposition to what many James Island residents consider unchecked development on the island, city leaders will discuss a proposed moratorium on new apartment development in the area.
It was less than two months ago that island residents flooded into a Charleston City Council meeting at the James Island Recreation Complex. Addressing city leaders, the concerns of residents ranged from increased traffic and flooding to the loss of the island’s identity, but the vocal group was united under one request — a two-year moratorium on new apartment and high-density development.
On the agenda for the Tues. May 9 meeting of Charleston City Council, the possibility of freezing development on James Island will be given its first formal consideration. Under the proposed ordinance, the temporary moratorium would pause the acceptance of applications for developments that exceed four residential units or 15,000 square feet in non-residentially zoned districts on James Island. If approved as currently written, the moratorium would remain in effect for 180 days. Projects that have already received first review from the city’s Technical Review Committee or Design Review Board would be exempt from the temporary ban.
While local officials often shy away from the word moratorium, City Councilwoman Kathleen Wilson, who represents much of the island, has championed the effort to stem the growth of high-density developments in areas of James Island where she says office and retail developments are badly needed. If passed, the proposed moratorium would start a period of study by the city’s Planning Department to examine the current non-residential zoning regulations on James Island and provide recommendations on how these regulations can be amended to better fit the needs of the community.
“In recent times, more and more properties on James Island that are zoned for business and commercial use have developed or approved for development in a manner that does not further or relate to retail, business, or commerce,” reads the ordinance that will be considered by council. “In an effort to preserve a balance of uses on the island, City Council deems it in the interests of the public, and in furtherance of the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of James Island and the city as a whole, that the uses in the non-residential zoning districts on James Island be studied and amended if necessary so that the identity of the island will be maintained, the uses on the island will be balanced, and the citizens of the island have access to meaningful commercial and retail facilities.”