Town Council should listen to public on island school
So here we are.
We can thank the Charleston County School Board, Dr. Nancy McGinley and her staff for the initiative to provide new facilities throughout the district like Buist, Memminger and the Courtenay School (Charleston Progressive Academy), and Sullivanís Island Elementary. They have reiterated repeatedly that they have no problem with an island-sensitive design or an alternative island location, and they have said that those issues should be left up to Sullivanís Island residents.
We can thank the parents and students who have worked hard promoting a new Sullivanís Island Elementary School. Their enthusiasm and dedication to the tradition of this institution are admirable and contagious. The SI community is enhanced, strengthened and energized by the school. Many of them I know and have spoken with have no problem with an island sensitive design or an alternative island location, and they have said again and again that they just want a school.
We can thank the islanders who would like a smaller school building or a more appropriate island location. Recent YouTube videos confirming such viable alternatives (Search ďSullivanís Island Elementary SchoolĒ or go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVKCCa7hQu4) drive that seemingly obvious point home. They have demonstrated and they have said that there are clearly more suitable sites, ones that would carefully and creatively accommodate a new building and not mar or pollute the pristine beachfront.
We can thank the project architects for their efforts to date. They were dealt a virtually insurmountable blow before even starting their work. The SI Town Council dictated a site that is not only of insufficient size to properly accommodate all of the components that this type of building requires, it lies within a ďVĒ zone/beachfront, which carries with it a paralyzing and non-negotiable number of FEMA/OCRM/DHEC/IBC regulations and requirements, which make a building of this size not only awkward but also unnecessarily and prohibitively more expensive.
They have said they will accommodate our direction.
Unfortunately, we can thank Sullivanís Island Town Council for the less than pleasant situation that we all are in right now.
Almost a full year after the initial public presentation of the proposed building (which was absolutely nothing at all like the promo rendering circulated in 2010) and in spite of countless calls/emails/petitions/meetings/requests/letters for much needed reevaluation and redirection, Town Council, even acknowledging that the proposed ďis not the best solution,Ē still presses bullishly forward. Although they may have begun the work on this with the best of intentions, it has sadly disintegrated, dividing a very close community with an autonomous, self-regulated mission to have a costly and enormous structure built way up high, on the beach, come hell or high water.
If it proceeds as they have said, we can be pretty sure that at least one of those is a given.
So here we are. It is time. It is time for Sullivanís Island Town Council to take their heads and this proposed building out of the sand.
This is much more than just a one issue matter. We must reconsider the new SI Elementary School location and establish a proper review process. We must begin to heal the community by solving the innumerable problems that currently threaten this critically important project.
The end result must be nothing less than a building that actually engages the ground plane rather than lumbering high above it, a building that complements our island context rather than negatively impacting our beachfront ecosystem, a building on a site that will permit it to work within the unique island scale and context, rather than dwarfing it ó and most importantly of all, a building that truly embodies a respect for all of the things on Sullivanís Island that so many hold dear, rather than ignoring them.
In doing so, and only then, will we truly teach by example and serve our children, and theirs, well for years and years to come.
Ernest E. Fava, Jr., an architect, is a resident of Sullivanís Island and Charleston. He serves on the city of Charleston Board of Architectural Review.