Plan Cainhoy Plantation in stages
It turns out that a technicality which developers have said is propelling them to present post haste a plan to develop all of Cainhoy Plantation isn't really a problem after all.
That means they can slow things down and plan one half now and the second half after much more consideration.
Here's the issue: The developers, represented by Matt Sloan, have said that, in order to sell a portion of the land for a Berkeley County school, they are bound to plan out the entire 9,000-acre tract. The school district feels the need to proceed quickly, hence their hasty timeline.
But a coalition of interested parties has discovered in an amendment to the development agreement with the city of Charleston that the developers actually are allowed to present the master plan in phases.
Cainhoy Plantation is extraordinarily lush with river views and abundant wildlife and scarce longleaf pine. It is also important historically and ecologically - too important not to consider options to a full-scale development - especially when there is wide opposition to the current plan. And when a full inventory of historic sites on the property has yet to be done.
There is less dissent about the lower half of the property, so it makes sense to begin the first phase there. That is where the school property is located.
Sadly, the developer has indicated the owners want to proceed with the entire master plan all at once.
So in its quest for the best outcome, the Charleston Planning Commission can, and should, apply the brakes to the process when it meets at 5 p.m. on Thursday.
It would be a welcome relief to some of the area's most respected organizations and groups: the Historic Charleston Foundation, the Preservation Society of Charleston, Cainhoy Village representatives, Jack Primus Community representatives, Society of St. Thomas and St. Denis, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Coastal Conservation League (CCL) and numerous plantation and large property owners from the Cooper River National Historic District and beyond.
All have contributed insights and recommendations for ways to handle the upper half of Cainhoy Plantation. And all have offered their assistance in fine-tuning plans so as not to destroy the historic and environmental value of its vast undeveloped acreage.
One plan, designed with the guidance of CCL's Jake Libaire, would sharply reduce the amount of land designated for residential and commercial development.
Interested parties have offered to look for conservation buyers to purchase some or all of the northern half of Cainhoy Plantation.
In an op-ed on today's Commentary page, Mepkin Abbey Abbot Stanislaus Gumula offers what may be the best idea: a moratorium pending a broad-based discussion on Cainhoy Plantation's future.
Of course, the developer makes the ultimate decision, but it would be a pity if Cainhoy Plantation, long a good neighbor to the area, should disregard out of hand input from neighbors, environmentalists, historians and preservationists.
And it would be most unfortunate if moving forward too quickly results in the loss of a prime part of the Lowcountry's natural heritage.