MOUNT PLEASANT ó The large development known as Oyster Point raises the usual set of concerns about traffic, density and its effect on quiet neighborhoods nearby.
Fortunately, the fate of its primary historic landmark is not among those concerns.
Deep back in the woods, along the marsh and Intracoastal Waterway is a site rarely seen in the Lowcountry: 15-foot-tall hills.
This isnít nature at work; these hills are manmade, remnants of an earthen Civil War era defense known as Fort Palmetto.
Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, the fort overlooked Hamlin Sound and Dewees Creek and formed the easternmost edge of Christ Church Parish line of defense.
It was built to deflect any Union attack on Charleston from the northeast, and its strategic importance was signified by the heavy artillery the Confederates stationed there: one 9-inch gun and two rifled 32-pounders.
Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee laid out the line early in the war, in late 1861, according to its National Register listing. Itís also unusually tall, with hills about 15 feet tall and that tower about 25 feet total around the surrounding terrain.
ďThese elevations provided better visibility over Hamlin Sound in addition to presenting a more formidable appearance,Ē the listing states.
Maybe thatís why the Union never tested it.
Today, the dimension of this simple open battery ó which measures 160 feet by 80 feet ó seem largely intact, yet another historic site that has benefited from largely being ignored for the past 150 years.
The biggest change has been that Fort Palmetto now supports a mature set of trees, including several of its namesake.
The developer, D.R. Horton, has vowed to continue to preserve the fort as it develops 593 homes nearby. It would not disturb the earth on the site and would provide a buffer to set this marshfront site off from the built neigbhorhood nearby.
That sensibility going in ó rather than something conceded after a bruising public controversy ó is laudable.
The primary preservation battle here isnít the fort. Itís the fate of Six Mile, the historically black community nearby.
Michael Allen, coordinator of the National Park Serviceís Gullah-Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, says he understands you canít stop progress, but he is concerned this new development seems to offer little to those residents who have lived nearby for decades.
ďWhat do the people of Six Mile gain with the building of Oyster Point?Ē he asks.
Commission Chair Ronald Daise has asked the project be slowed to assess how Six Mileís cultural integrity would be affected by higher property taxes, traffic congestion, potential loss of sweetgrass harvesting areas and the preservation of historical features.
Thatís a public debate that ought to be held ó and one that might not have taken place a few decades ago, when black voters in this rural community, in this state and this region had far less clout.
Thatís changing, and thatís a good thing.
Itís also a good thing that deep in the woods here, along an inspiringly beautiful stretch of marsh, is a set of hills, built by slave labor, to remind us that this debate, in a larger sense, is nothing new.
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.