Cruise ship lawsuit is a small problem that could get bigger, depending on the ruling
It’s hard to believe that controversial flag still flies from so many downtown homes.
No, not the Confederate battle flag — that anti-cruise-ship banner.
You’ve seen it, the gray thing that looks like a cross between a Spoleto poster and a Pink Floyd album cover. See, there are folks here who still really don’t like Carnival or its fun ship, the Fantasy. And they aren’t giving up that fight, even though the state Supreme Court just gave them a pretty good spanking.
A couple weeks ago the high court tossed out most of the claims in the lawsuit filed by the Preservation Society of Charleston, the Coastal Conservation League and a couple downtown neighborhood associations.
The only hope these folks have left is their contention that the cruise ships violate city zoning or can be ruled a nuisance.
Funny thing is, two years ago some people thought this lawsuit was a nuisance, intended to run Carnival out of the city. But it’s had exactly the opposite effect.
Because losing this fight would have serious repercussions for the entire cruise industry, and the port.
Evan R. Thompson, executive director of the Preservation Society, says the court’s willingness to give parts of the lawsuit a full hearing proves it isn’t frivolous.
“It’s a very complicated issue that deserves full consideration,” Thompson says.
He’s right, you can’t dismiss the concerns of this many people. It should be settled.
But the way the court order reads, the zoning argument isn’t likely to fly. Nuisance will be the key, and if you’ve ever been on East Bay Street when the Fantasy is in town, you know it can be a royal pain. But so is Spoleto, or a College of Charleston basketball game.
The Preservation Society has the city’s best interests at heart. And it is right that we don’t need the cruise industry to be a successful town. We were getting along just fine without another 150,000 day-trippers.
But we do need the port. And ports sometimes attract cruise ships. They can’t turn away business and be taken seriously.
“This is a port city, it’s part of our history,” says Mayor Joe Riley. “We have 1,740 ships call on this port every year, and 84 of them are cruise ships.”
In other words, what’s the big deal?
Most of the parties in this lawsuit are pretty quiet right now, but the pro-cruise crowd is feeling pretty confident.
Riley notes that the traffic problems would disappear much faster if the lawsuit just went away and the port could start on its new terminal and parking facility — which will end the need to close streets.
And the closures are a much better argument for nuisance than, as some of the plaintiffs say, all those people walking through their neighborhoods.
Sorry, but that’s the price of living in a beautiful place.
Frankly, the cruise ship people account for about 2 percent of our tourists. The boat is just not that much of a problem, unless the real issue is that you’ve got something against tourists.
Ultimately, the key is whether the port is beholden to city law. If the court rules that it is, it could not only affect Carnival’s dealings in other cities, it could hurt the port’s ability to attract other ships.
And then we’d have a bigger problem than traffic jams, calypso music and pesky people who dare to love our city.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org.