North Charleston OKs college construction plan; mobile home park owner gives residents two months’ free rent

The site selected for the College of Charleston’s new North Campus won final zoning approval Thursday in North Charleston, clearing the way for a plan that will displace a 27-unit mobile home park.

The zoning issue was fast-tracked through the approval process, and prompted discussion among City Council members about what role, if any, the city needs to play when a change in land use rules could result in people losing their homes.

The council did, however, approve the zoning change unanimously with Dot Williams absent.

Several council members noted that the mobile home park residents were on monthly leases, and could have been asked to leave on a month’s notice at any time, for any reason.

The development by Holder Properties has been rushed through the approval process because the college needs the new campus and Lowcountry Graduate Center built in time for the fall 2014 semester. The current site, an office complex on International Boulevard, was purchased by Boeing Co. and the college needs to move.

The new site is in the Wando Woods community adjacent to Interstate 526 and Dorchester Road, on properties between Paramount Drive and Dorsey Avenue that include the mobile home park owned by William and Margaret Altman. Councilman Todd Olds represents the community and has said most Wando Woods residents support the development plan.

“I want to make it utterly clear tonight that my heart goes out to these people (in the park),” said Olds.

He said the city has no role in the development plan, other than voting on the zoning change requested by the property owner and the developer.

“What I find disheartening here is when people come out and make it look like we are putting people out in the streets,” Olds said.

Olds also read a letter from Altman, which was the first public mention of any steps being taken to help residents who must relocate by Nov. 30.

“To help tenants deal with this change, no rent has been charged for the months of October and November,” Altman said in the letter. “Additionally, I have offered the trailers that can be moved to the current tenants at no cost and several of them are seeking permits for those trailers to be moved.”

Residents of the park did not attend the council meeting, but some were at a committee meeting the prior week, and have expressed concern about being able to move and find affordable housing.

Councilman Ron Brinson said that when the city changes land use rules to allow property to be developed, it is taking an active role that changes property values and in some cases displaces residents.

“We simply cannot separate ourselves from that,” he said.

Reach David Slade at 937-5552 or Twitter @DSladeNews.

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