HICKS COLUMN: I-526 would cost more than money
Heidi Finck loves her home.
She lives in a West Ashley townhouse with tile floors and brightly painted walls that are adorned with Van Gogh-inspired canvases painted by her son. She built the stone patio out back by herself, hauling the heavy rocks in over a two-week period. There she sits and looks at a garden she planted. It's a nice place.
But if the state decides to finish Interstate 526, she could lose it all.
"I have nowhere to go," Finck says. "I really don't think about it because I would really be down in the dumps."
As Tony Bartelme reported last week, there are 780 properties in the path of the proposed extension/completion of 526. If the road is built, the people who live on that land will either lose their homes or end up living in the shadow of a major highway.
Finck is right on the line and it's unclear whether the state would tear down her home, or simply ruin it.
And not knowing is killing her.
Finck first learned about this possibility a year-and-a-half ago, when her homeowners association called a meeting to discuss it.
Since then, she has gotten involved with Nix 526 -- sorta. She's not really a joiner. But this is important enough to draw her into the debate.
She has sent letters to Department of Transportation officials, city and county council members. She asked them to save some room in their front yards, because that's where she will have to set up her tent.
If the state uses eminent domain to take her home, Finck will get a depressed real estate market price for the most valuable thing she owns. And if she doesn't, the road will come so close to her building it won't be worth much anyway. And it will make living at her nice place not nearly as nice.
"It would be an unhealthy and noisy environment to live in," she says.
Neither is an attractive option.
Price of progress?
The prospects of 526 rushing through her home never came up when Finck bought it more than 12 years ago.
At the time, no one thought much about it -- this road has been an on-and-off project for 40 years. Since Finck bought her home, new subdivisions have gone up near its path and life has gone on.
But now, there is a major push and no one is really sure why now. Well, other than the fact that some politicians and developers want it.
Fact is, a lot of people on Johns Island oppose this. Some James Islanders don't want it, and the people in its path in West Ashley hate it. Finck says the rich people are pushing this extravagantly expensive project on the county without a thought to how it might affect people, not to mention animal life. All so they can get to the nice restaurants in downtown Charleston a little quicker -- at a cost of $500 million to taxpayers like Finck.
Maybe it's time to consider the real cost of progress here. Because otherwise, all Finck will have left is the hope that all this, like so many other times, is all just talk.
"Honestly, I'm optimistic," Finck says. "If I wasn't, I'd drive myself nuts."
Follow Brian Hicks on Twitter at @BriHicks_PandC.