Historic Charleston Foundation has played a key role in guiding the preservation and development of Charleston and its historic environs since its founding in 1947. The organization has set the pace for national preservation strategies and shaped the creation of local, regional and national policies.
The Foundation has remained objective and independent throughout a three-year process of leading the community in dialogue and assessment regarding the landside impacts of the cruise industry. Recognizing the significance of the State Ports Authority (SPA) to Charleston and the state of South Carolina, the Foundation continues to acknowledge the potential benefits of the redevelopment of Union Pier. Historic Charleston Foundation's mission and role is to defend the processes that serve to preserve and protect the historical, architectural and cultural character of Charleston.
Having exhausted viable avenues of appeal from simple mediation to proposing an ordinance and commissioning an economic impact study of the cruise industry, the Foundation has concluded that its next course of action will be to participate in the request for a contested case hearing before the Administrative Law Court to appeal the S.C. Department of Health & Environmental Control's (DHEC) issuance of a permit for the proposed work at Building 322 on Union Pier. This approach is consistent with all previous actions the Foundation has taken on the subject.
Historic Charleston Foundation has elected to progress with the appeal process to ensure the following:
1) that the proper analysis was undertaken in determining the broad impacts that the proposed new cruise terminal could have on the historic districts in downtown Charleston, and
2) that the review process, required by law, was followed.
Since 2010 Historic Charleston Foundation has advocated for the preservation of the historic districts of downtown Charleston as it relates to the landside impacts of the cruise industry. Highlights of this three-year journey include:
January 2010 — The Foundation led a community forum titled “A Delicate Balance,” attended by more than 300 people. Discussions included the Union Pier Concept Plan.
August 2010 — Historic Charleston Foundation formed an internal ad hoc committee to focus on cruise ships and the redevelopment of Union Pier.
December 2010 — The Foundation's trustees unanimously adopted a resolution and a proposed “Plan of Action.”
March 2011 — Foundation trustees adopted resolutions, which called upon the city to require the SPA to move development plans through and abide by the decisions of the Board of Architectural Review (BAR) and the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) and that the City and/or any other relevant governing entity implement immediate, reasonable written and enforceable regulations on the cruise industry; and called upon the SPA and the State of South Carolina to present an overview of the analyses of alternative sites.
May 2011 — The Foundation sponsored a community forum, which featured a panel of national experts and was attended by over 500 interested citizens, to facilitate further dialogue on the redevelopment of Union Pier. The Foundation did not participate in the nomination of Charleston's inclusion on the National Trust for Historic Preservation's list of 11 Most Endangered Historic Places or the lawsuit against Carnival Corporation.
Also in May, the White & Smith Planning and Law Group completed its legal analysis commissioned by the Foundation. The analysis, titled Jurisdictional Survey and Legal Authority Assessment, concluded that the City does have the authority to regulate the landside impacts of the cruise industry.
June 2011 — After the Foundation advocated for BAR review, the SPA submitted to the BAR its plan for converting Building 322 on Union Pier into a cruise terminal.
September 2011 — The Foundation presented its draft cruise regulation ordinance to City Council for its consideration, based on the Jurisdictional Survey and Legal Authority Assessment by White & Smith. In lieu of the Foundation's draft ordinance, City Council passed the Mayor's “Voluntary Agreement” ordinance.
October 2011 — The Foundation commissioned Miley and Associates, Inc., to conduct an independent study of the economic impacts of the cruise industry which was supported, in part, by a grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
February 2012 — Miley and Associates, Inc. released its study, “The Cruise Industry in Charleston: A Clear Perspective.”
April and September 2012 — The Foundation shared its position at the Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM) hearing as part of environmental review process of piling at the proposed terminal.
December 2012 — The Foundation submitted a request for a “final review conference” for the DHEC permit issued for the piling at the new terminal.
January-February 2013 — The Foundation's Board of Trustees voted to proceed with a request for a contested case hearing before the Administrative Law Court in order to appeal DHEC's issuance of a permit for the proposed work at Building 322 on Union Pier.
The landside impacts of the cruise industry have broad implications beyond the singular issue of cruise ships; thus the DHEC environmental review process is critical to protecting the historic and natural resources of the whole state. When engaging in a formal review process, it is critical to have policies in place that move the conversation from subjective to a more objective position. Historic Charleston Foundation remains steadfast to its mission, focusing on the inherent integrity of the historic district and thus defending the processes designed to protect and preserve it.
Katharine S. Robinson is president & CEO of Historic Charleston Foundation.