James Island is lost cause in the city's development campaign
It takes real dedication to get out in the cold on the morning after Christmas to protest a done deal.
But then we have history with lost causes.
Most of the folks standing on Maybank Highway on Thursday knew they couldn't stop the clear-cutting of the forest, or the insanely large development that will eventually tower over that land.
They've been trying to do that for years. The city has not listened to their pleas, or their completely reasonable arguments. For instance:
A 280-unit apartment complex with retail space and a six-story parking garage is wildly out of character for the neighborhood.
The development will add too many cars to an already crowded Maybank Highway.
James Island is already over-developed and short a few thousand trees.
The city ignored all those points and bulldozed this thing through. All the residents got was a laughably small concession from the developer - 280 units instead of 316 - and a setback.
For the top floor.
Now, neighbors are just waiting for the trucks to come and haul off all those great trees. It's inevitable; nothing can stop it.
Not even common sense.
The protesters are not unreasonable, tree-hugging, anti-growth zealots.
They aren't extremists of any kind - just the opposite, in fact.
"Growth is OK," says Chris Crosby, "but it should be done incrementally and it should fit in."
That's absolutely right. And nothing about "The Standard" - the haughty name of this development - fits in with Maybank Highway or James Island. Dan Dickison notes that there is nothing else remotely close to its size in the area.
"I don't see how we get away without another stop light, and that will be four in a quarter-mile," Dickison says. "That's not the kind of community anyone wants to move into."
As Dickison says, the infrastructure on James Island - and most of Charleston, to be honest - is already at capacity. Maybank is a parking lot most mornings. Add another 350-400 cars a day and you have another U.S. Highway 17.
The developer and the city say the idea behind this "gathering place" zoning is to create a self-contained community where people can walk or ride bikes. It looks great in the artist's rendering, but the six-story parking garage in the background tells a wildly different story.
And the rendering does not show bumper-to-bumper traffic in front of The Standard, so how accurate can it be?
This is the problem. We allow people to come in from off and build on every square inch of Lowcountry soil because everyone wants to live here.
That is a zero-sum game.
"I don't see how we can accommodate too many more residents and maintain what we have," Dickison says.
No traffic holiday
A warped, rusted bike wheel lay in the dirt just a few feet from the protesters Thursday morning. It says everything you need to know about how bicycles will fare on Maybank.
The Standard isn't going to inspire anyone to get on a bike. It's too dangerous because there is simply too much traffic. And sadly, it's going to get a lot worse.
"In an urban setting, this would be appropriate," says Kay Sawyer. "But this is not an urban setting. We're not trying to isolate ourselves, but James Island is a suburb. This is not downtown."
But that is exactly what James Island is going to turn into - a high-density urban center. Developers can talk about setbacks, landscaping and turning lanes all they want, but the bottom line is this: The Standard - and the further development it sparks - is going to destroy Maybank Highway.
Come on, the highway can't handle traffic from the Holiday Festival of Lights. Does anyone really think it can take another 400 cars a day?
No, but obviously the right people don't care.
The folks stood on Maybank Highway on Thursday morning waiting for logging trucks that never came. But they will get there, possibly next week when there is no protest scheduled. It's a done deal.
All those protesters are left with is the hope that they will be able to persuade city officials to never allow such a thing to happen anywhere in Charleston again.
They are going to be disappointed.
If the city will allow such over-development on Maybank Highway, it will let it happen anywhere.
Reach Brian Hicks at email@example.com