Developers want to pave the way for a community on the stunningly beautiful Cainhoy Plantation, and they’re starting by offering to sell a bit of the land for a high school.
But even acknowledging Berkeley County’s need for more schools to serve its growing population, the public should take a hard look at what might be in store there.
The city of Charleston’s planning department will discuss the project at 6:30 p.m. today at Gildan Office, 1980 Clements Ferry Road. That would be a good time for people to start asking questions.
The information should be of particular interest to environmentalists. The property is very close to the Francis Marion National Forest and is one of a dwindling number of places with old stands of long-leaf pine.
Historians will want to know what developers would do to recognize and preserve the area’s rich history, which includes exploits of Francis Marion and his men.
Indeed, Cainhoy was named one of South Carolina’s 11 most endangered places by the Palmetto Trust for Historic Preservation in 2000.
At 5,800 acres of high land, it is two and a half times the size of peninsula Charleston below the Crosstown. That doesn’t include 3,200 acres of wetlands and marsh.
And without any guarantees to the contrary, this site, amidst the rural Lowcountry, could be home to tens of thousands of people — and their cars.
Neighbors plan to ask for time and information. They have been told the city of Charleston wants to proceed with dispatch to approve the project.
But at this point, they have seen no plans. Today will be their first opportunity to ask questions and offer input. They want a series of public meetings to allow for thorough public scrutiny.
Matt Sloan, who represents the landowners (the family of the late Harry Frank Guggenheim), said it will take 50 years for the project to be complete. Then why hurry now? The project is too important to treat hastily.
If the city of Charleston or Berkeley County is going to provide infrastructure, the community deserves to know what it will get in return. Parks? Community buildings? Green space? Assurances that the long-leaf pines will be protected? Limits on the number of units? Minimum lot sizes?
The Berkeley County School District is eager to address its crowded schools, which are only going to get more crowded without new schools.
But its sense of urgency shouldn’t compel the city of Charleston to move too quickly, and perhaps miss opportunities to ensure the project is as friendly to the community as possible.
Dorchester County and MeadWestvaco worked for two years before agreeing on plans for the massive East Edisto development, a web of green communities in the southern part of the county outside Summerville. The negotiations resulted in a plan that MeadWestvaco, the county and environmentalists all find agreeable.
Cainhoy Plantation and its neighbors deserve assurances that this extraordinary piece of land will be treated with just as much respect.