Gone with the sprawl: Cainhoy Plantation

  • Posted: Friday, January 10, 2014 4:51 p.m., Updated: Friday, January 10, 2014 7:44 p.m.

Not far from Charleston lies 9,087-acre Cainhoy Plantation.

Not long from now, lots of its trees apparently will come down to make way for a massive mixed-use development.

And lots of folks are coming down hard on that looming Lowcountry landscape loss.

But you don't have to welcome any development of Cainhoy Plantation, in what used to be the wilds of Berkeley County, to figure that some sort of development there is inevitable.

And you don't have to dispute the assertion that the current proposal is the best possible development outcome there to wish it didn't have to be this way.

The Guggenheim Foundation owns the property. Along with the City of Charleston, which grabbed the land in a process that began more than two decades go, the foundation is pitching its development plan as an overall win-win deal for the community.

Matt Sloan, who's representing the Guggenheims on the Cainhoy project, gave a Post and Courier colleague and me an extensive tour of the Cainhoy property on Wednesday.

He pointed out that the Guggenheims "have been responsible stewards of this land for 85 years" after they "saved" it by buying it. He stressed that their "brand legacy is of utmost priority to them" - and that they "take umbrage" at "any insinuation" that the Cainhoy plan sullies their reputation.

Sloan steered the development of Daniel Island, which also had been owned by the Guggenheims. President of the Daniel Island Company, Sloan cited its popular trails - and hailed the potential for "the mother of all trail systems" in the Cainhoy development as "just unprecedented."

He also fairly touted the Cainhoy Plantation owners' donations of land for assorted public benefits.

Numbers games


All right, already. It sounds, at least to this possibly gullible land-use neophyte, like a reasonable development proposal. That is, if that property must be developed at all - which evidently it eventually will.

Then again, that seemingly reassuring 2.1 homes per acre limit is nearly twice as high if you don't count the more than 4,000 acres of wetlands - where you can't build homes.

And many Charleston natives, including me, find it hard to cheer for change that includes moving a projected 20,000 people into Cainhoy Plantation.

OK, so the sprawling horse is already out of the Cainhoy barn. Sloan told us Clements Ferry Road, which connects I-526 and Highway 41, now has 30,000 motor-vehicle trips a day - but no grocery store.

Later that day, Tim Keane, Charleston's director of planning, preservation and sustainability, told us during a charrette at the old Keith School on Clements Ferry Road, about 2˝ miles from Highway 41: "The public infrastructure is all here - pump stations and everything."

Hey, people have to live somewhere - and buy groceries somewhere. The closer to their homes they buy them, the less traffic they create.

The Cainhoy Plantation development will also purportedly alleviate traffic by paving the "Road to Calais," aka "Old King's Highway," into a key thoroughfare cutting through the property from Clements Ferry to Cainhoy Road.

During Wednesday's grand tour, we saw a stone mile marker - with "6" and "Calais" still visible on it - by that now-dirt "Road to Calais," which has been there for at least two centuries. We also saw:

two "Venning cemeteries" a long way from each other - one black, one white;

a cool (and very cold on Wednesday), late 19th century house on the Wando River, with a fireplace in each room and a detached kitchen;

plenty of loblolly and longleaf pines.

about a dozen rambling turkey and two running deer;

what Sloan called "iconic" turkey-sculpture-topped columns flanking the entrance drive to the Guggenheim Family lodge;

a plaque on that lodge with signatures of guests, including iconic aviator Jimmy Doolittle, who successfully hunted turkeys while visiting there.

Deep in the woods


Fortunately, the zeal the family owners retain for hunting birds should help preserve some of their Cainhoy land.

As for pine trees, plenty of people don't know one kind from another. Some even hold pine trees in disdain.

For instance, a couple of rivers away from Cainhoy Plantation, North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey wants pines exempted from his city's tree-cutting rules. As reported in Friday's Post and Courier, Summey said at Thursday's City Council meeting: "I don't like pine trees in my yard, and I don't have any, thank God."

Just don't expect the Almighty to stop Cainhoy Plantation's development.

And don't expect many of us old-timers from these parts to like it.

Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is wooten@postandcourier.com.

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